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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Google introduces new privacy tool updates to ensure internet safety for South Africans

Google has announced that updates have been made to the platform that will provide users with more control and privacy of personal information on Search. The updated Results about you, new SafeSearch, and updated policies on personal explicit images are the tools that are now available for safeguarding personal information online for South Africans.

The Results about you tool, which was launched last year has received a significant update. This tool  enables individuals to easily request the removal of search results that contain personal phone number, house address or email, right from Google app or through Search, will now have a new dashboard that reveals if web results with contact information are showing up on Search. Using the tool, individuals can then quickly request the removal of those results from Google.

The tool will also notify individuals when new results from the web containing personal contact information pops up in Search. Individuals can access this tool in the Google app by clicking on your Google account photo and selecting “Results about you”. This tool is available in the U.S in English for now and will be rolled out in other languages and locations  soon.

The new SafeSearch tool comes with a blurring setting for explicit imagery — such as adult or graphic violent content — that will now be blurred by default when it appears in Search results. This gives more control for the family from accidentally encountering explicit imagery on Search.  Individuals can adjust the settings and turn it off at any time, unless a guardian or school network administrator has locked the setting.

A survey conducted by UNICEF, found that one third of children in South Africa are at risk of online violence, exploitation or abuse. Entitled, the ‘SA Kids Online Study’, the survey also found that 70% of children surveyed use the Internet without parental consent. Parental controls in Search have also been made easier to find. By typing in a relevant query like “google parental controls” or “google family link”, individuals will see a box with information on how to manage parental controls.

Another study by Ipsos revealed that since 2019, South Africans’ trust in the internet has declined. This is particularly true where it concerns privacy and protection of personal data. The survey, made up of 20 countries, found that 88% of respondents in South Africa voiced concerns over privacy and control of information (higher than the 79% country average).

Siya Madikane, Communications and Public Affairs Manager for Google in South Africa, states that protecting the personal information of users on the internet is a priority for Google; and that the introduction of these tools and updates could not come at a better time.

“The call of policy change along with an increased concern around privacy and the protection of personal information is evident in how South Africans are feeling. Studies have provided clear indications of where areas of concern exist, and it is up to organisations such as Google to create solutions that address these,” says Madikane.

Google has also updated policies on personal explicit images. Individuals are now able to remove from Search any of their personal, explicit images that they no longer wish to be visible in Search. While this content does not apply to content that are currently being commercialized, it allows an avenue to remove non-consensual explicit imagery from Search.

“Whether it’s for websites containing personal information, explicit imagery or any other removal requests, we’ve updated and simplified the forms you use to submit requests. Of course, removing content from Google Search does not remove it from the web or other search engines, but we hope these changes give people more control over private information appearing in Google Search”, added Madikane.

The new privacy tool updates are crucial to helping individuals stay in control of their online experience and are some of the ways Google reinforces their commitment to the individual’s trust and safety on the internet.

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