DecryptedTech

Wednesday06 July 2022

Google Says they Will Fight Doxxing, With Some Conditions of Course


Reading time is around minutes.

Google is an odd company. They have used the personal vs corporate data ownership line like a jump rope over the years. We have watched them for a long time and all we can say is that their track record on protecting personal information and privacy has been both good and bad with them being on the bad side for most of recent history. After being a vehement opposer of bills like SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect our Intellectual Property Act) they quickly dropped those stances and started facilitating blanket takedown noticed from the MPAA (now the MPA) and RIAA. The blanket notices often came from law firms that provided little more than links to Google which Google then removed from their search engine and YouTube.

As a victim of one of these blanket notices, we had little indication of why we were targeted in the takedown, other than it allegedly violated copyright. After a three week back and forth it was found that our video (Windows 8 on an Asus EEEPC tablet) did not violate any copyright and the video was restored. Some would think that would be the end, but it just is not. The fact that Google responded to a letter with no factual basis without doing any due diligence to determine the truth of the notice is part of our story today.

As the title indicates we are going to be talking about doxxing. doxxing is the activity of identifying and releasing Personally Identifying Information. doxxing is a popular activity, and one that even larger news organizations have gotten involved with. In some cases, the doxxing is done to unmask a person online by publicly disclosing their home and/or work address, baking information, phone numbers etc. It can and has led to threats of an actual violence against the target of the doxxing campaign. Some people have lost their jobs as a result of doxxing due to opinions or comments made on social media. It is a rather nasty practice and with a few exceptions (Lapsus$) is often politically motivated.

Google is saying they want to do their part in helping remove personally identifying information from their search engines. They have developed a process for people that are victims of doxxing to have their information removed from Google search engines. This sounds like a great thing and one that we think is a step in the right direction. However, there is a tiny little issue with Google’s current removal request system. For them to consider removal there has to be two conditions met.

“Requirements to remove doxxing content
For us to consider the content for removal, it must meet both of these requirements:
Your contact info is present.
There’s the presence of:
Explicit or implicit threats, or
Explicit or implicit calls to action for others to harm or harass.”

It is the last two requirements that are the most concerning to me. On the one hand Google can take action to remove videos from YouTube with little to no proof of harm, but they will not remove personally identifying information unless there is proof of threat or harm. Kudos to Google for doing something, but minus a few million here for nothing taking the privacy and ownership of personal data into account. Maybe this will change in the future but given Google’s track record I do doubt it.

 

You can check out their policy and request forms here and here

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