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Google rolls out tool to help minors delete photos from search

<i>Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images</i><br/>
NurPhoto via Getty Images
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto/Getty Images

By Samantha Murphy Kelly, CNN Business

Google is now making it easier for minors or their parents to have photos of them deleted from search results.

In a blog post published Wednesday, the company said it is rolling out a tool that lets parents and kids under the age of 18 request photos be removed from its images tab or no longer appear as thumbnails in a search inquiry.

Although Google previously offered ways for people to request the removal of personal information and photos that fit into categories such as “non-consensual explicit” or “financial, medical and national ID,” it’s now extending this to images of minors.

“We know that kids and teens have to navigate some unique challenges online, especially when a picture of them is unexpectedly available on the internet,” the company said in the blog post. “We believe this change will help give young people more control over their digital footprint and where their images can be found on Search.”

The new form allows users to flag URLs of any images or search results that contain pictures they want removed. Google said its teams will review each submission and reach out if they need additional information to verify the requirements for removal.

However, the company emphasized this won’t remove the image from the internet entirely; people will need to contact a website’s webmaster to ask for that content to be removed.

The company previously announced the tool in August as part of a bigger effort to protect minors across its platforms. Other features it introduced at the time included a private default setting for all videos uploaded by a teenager and a tool called Family Link that helps parents monitor their kids’ accounts.

The efforts come as Big Tech companies continue to offer more child safety measures amid criticism from experts and lawmakers about how various platforms impact young users. Earlier this week, an executive from Google-owned YouTube — alongside leaders from Snap and TikTok — was grilled by Senators about the steps the platform is taking to protect their young users.

Some experts applauded Google’s latest move to give minors more control over images, noting their removal could also cut down on cyber-bullying or prevent potentially harmful information or photos from persisting online.

“We’re glad to see Google take this overdue step to give children and teens and their families more control over what images show up in search results,” said David Monahan, campaign manager at Fairplay, a child advocacy group. “We hope Google will go farther to reverse its collection of sensitive data and give families the ability to erase the digital footprint that Google and its partners maintain on every young person in the US.”

Alexandra Hamlet, a clinical psychologist who works with teenagers, said Google’s request process could also help parents talk more openly with their kids about managing their online presence. That could include discussing what’s worthy of consideration for removal, such as a photo that could harm their future reputation versus one where they perceive to look less than “perfect.”

“While some parents may believe that their teen can handle the removal of various pictures without help, I do suggest that they still have conversations about values and how they tie into image online,” she said. “They could be missing out on a great opportunity to help their teen to build insight and assertiveness skills.”

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