While you can’t wipe your online presence, you can do some things to mitigate it. There are many good reasons to delete your information from google, such as avoiding identity theft, decreasing the risk of a stalker, or removing misinformation. Fortunately, you can follow a simple set of steps to clean up your online reputation.
Removing your information from Google
If you’ve become a victim of doxxing or have found unpleasant information, footage, or photos of yourself online, you may be able to get them removed from the internet. However, if this doesn’t work, you can reduce the risk of people accessing it by removing it from Google’s search results – Google is one of the most popular search engines, so if it’s removed, you stand a better chance of your information not falling into the wrong hands. Remember that if you’re being blackmailed or threatened, you can also contact law enforcement.
Contact site owner
Contacting Google will remove the page from the Google search engine results – the information doesn’t disappear and may appear in other search engines results. So if you want your personal data to be removed, we recommend contacting the owner directly to request removal.
To make contact with a site owner, you can try these things:
- Find the ‘Contact Us’ section on the website
- Look up the site’s administrative contact, webmaster, and registered email on WhoIs
- If neither of these worked, you could try contacting the hosting company directly
Once the website owner removes the page containing your info, it’ll be deleted from Google Search as well. To speed up the process, you can try using Google’s ‘Outdated Content Removal’ tool for outdated content.
If you can’t contact the site’s owners or dispute the content removal, you could try contacting Google. However, you should note that they won’t remove all personal information, just the kind that creates ‘significant risk of harm’ such as identity theft or fraud. They’re obligated to remove content that contravenes the law, such as the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), or something unquestionably illegal (such as child pornography). 13 states have a right to deletion law, not every state requires it.
Again, you should know that while Google will remove some sites from their search pages, they don’t just disappear. They’ll still be available from other search engines. Google doesn’t have the necessary power to pull down a website.
- Non-consensual pornography: Google will remove images that show sexual activity or intimate photos that were posted without the necessary consent. Google can remove any sexual images that were intended to remain private
- Fake pornography: Google can also remove fake imagery where an individual is depicted as nude or in a sexually explicit situation. For Google to remove it, the image must be distributed without the individual’s knowledge or consent
- Blackmail content: Some websites post explicit or otherwise harmful content and make individuals pay to remove it. Blackmail or exploitative removal practices, if the individual is the subject of the content, the website isn’t a review site, requiring payment for removal. Google will remove it from search results (for free)
- Financial, medical, or national ID info: When requested, Google will also remove identifying information that could be used for identity theft. Such information may include Social Security numbers, bank accounts, and credit card numbers, pictures of signatures, and your medical records
- Doxxing content: Doxxing happens when someone releases an individual’s personal information (address, phone number, or other information) to cause harm/call for others to harass them. To quality for removal, the content must include contact information and an implied or explicit threat or calls for harassment/harm towards the individual. Doxxing doesn’t involve everyday contact information such as government documents, business, or real estate records. It also doesn’t apply to content that’s considered ‘in the interest of the public’ such as government records, criminal records, or professional contact information that’s shared in allegations of professional wrongdoing (such as fraud or scams). The public interest clause also applies to information about active civic service members and public officials
Outdated content: Google will remove some types of obsolete content, such as:
- Pages or images that don’t exist anymore
- Pages that don’t have critical, sensitive, or important information
- The individual doesn’t own the page anymore
- Content has been removed but still shows up in the search results, resulting in a snippet or cached copy of the website remaining visible
If the content you want to report contains your personal information or meets any of the above criteria, you can go to this page and fill out the form to report a problem. It’s crucial to note that public records, usually hosted on government websites, will not be removed in this way. Your removal request will typically be dealt with within 72 hours.
Additional ways to maintain privacy
It’s mainly at Google’s discretion whether they remove this information or not, but they do have transparent and fair guidelines. Once you’ve requested the removal of your sensitive data from Google, there are different ways you can stay as private as possible online.
- Google yourself: You should begin by Googling yourself to ensure that there aren’t any results/information you didn’t consider
- Social media accounts: Social media is one way people may dig for your information – especially malicious people or stalkers. Rather than just not using social media, you may consider completely deactivating your accounts and other online accounts you have (for example, blogs), which means that companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram will no longer display your information anywhere online. If you’re not ready to delete everything, you can adjust your privacy settings to ensure that your data can’t fall into others’ hands
- Fake email: You should consider making a fake email to give to businesses and stores you order from. Many online checkouts will ask you for an email, and they may sell this on to others
- Virtual Private Networks: A VPN can hide your device’s IP address and web activity, helping you browse privately online. Your ISP won’t be able to access any of the web pages you go to, nor can any would-be hackers
- Tor: Tor is a highly encrypted private browser that you can hide your activity online. Your browser will encrypt all of your traffic three times over, but this only applies to the browser itself and not any related web apps
- Checking out as a guest: You should check out as a guest when you can. This reduces the amount of information you give to businesses and companies upon checkout
- Be careful of who you provide information to: Before you give anyone your (actual) email address or phone number, you should contemplate whether they need it
Each state legislates its own privacy rules, so relying on this isn’t easy to protect yourself. Only 13 states grant you the right to deletion; unless you’re dealing with a clear breach of criminal law or civil law, it’s up to Google’s discretion whether your information is removed. So the best thing you can do is carefully protect your information and reduce your digital footprint by following the above tips.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.
Officer Banta is the official SecurityNerd home security and safety expert. A member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years, Officer Banta reviews all articles before lending his stamp of approval. Click here for more information on Officer Banta and the rest of our team.