CHARLOTTE, N.C. – “I’m getting so many spam messages, as many as 12 a day,” says Ryan Sumner. He runs a well-known Charlotte photography business, but his personal phone number is easily found online. We were there as he navigated Google’s newly expanded search results removal tool. It took us some time to find the correct online form to submit.

Google has, for years, allowed people to request information like bank account numbers or credit card numbers be removed from search results. Under its new policy expansion, you can now ask Google to remove personal info like phone numbers, email addresses or physical addresses from search results.

“I think it’s great, I think it’s a wonderful step in the right direction. I think all big tech and social media companies should offer this,” says cybersecurity expert and Fortalice Solutions CEO Theresa Payton. Part of her job is helping people, from CEOs to VIPs, control their online info. She likes this new expanded Google tool, but warns: your online footprint has to be monitored regularly. She says, “Once the internet is told something about you, the internet never forgets.”

Payton has three other online privacy and security tips: one, use an online shopping or marketing persona or alias in instances when your legal name is not required. Two, search your name online on a regular basis to monitor content. And three, set up a google search alert for everyone in your family. Payton says, “So that you actually get alerted if your name is used or your picture is posted. It’s free and easy to do.”

“Easy” is not the word Ryan used to describe the Google removal request tool. He says, “It was slightly infuriating actually, it was very difficult to figure out exactly what they wanted.” After a few minutes, he figured it out, and now, Ryan waits to find out if Google will remove his personal phone number from search results. He tells WCCB that next time, he’ll probably just reach out to a site’s webmaster directly. But overall, “I think the concept in general is great.”

Much of Europe has a law called “The Right to be Forgotten,” which gives people the right to have private information about themselves removed from internet searches. Payton says the U.S. is a long way from having such a law here.


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