As technology improves, social media thrives, website cookies are tracked, and we rely more and more on online services, it’s becoming more difficult than ever to maintain privacy on the web. In fact, the majority of Americans believe their personal data is less secure now, data collection poses more risks than benefits, and being tracked online is just a way of life.
However, the Internet holds a massive amount of data that many of us consider to be private, and just because it may be a new way of life doesn't mean there’s nothing we can do about it. One step you can take today is to remove your personal information from Google Search results. Here’s how.
WHAT INFORMATION WILL GOOGLE REMOVE?
You can work with Google to get some of your information deleted by requesting that they remove links to the information from Google Search. Google will not remove anything and everything you ask them to, but they will remove information that creates “significant risks of identity theft, financial fraud, or other specific harms.” They will also remove content for legal reasons, such as copyright violations.
The types of information Google will remove include:
- Personally Identifiable Information (PII), such as Social Security number, bank account and credit card numbers, pictures of your signature or identifying documents, medical records, login credentials, or personal contact information.
- Explicit or personal images or videos.
- Content about you on sites with exploitative removal practices, meaning the sites require you to pay money to them or an agency to get content removed.
- Images of minors.
HOW TO MAKE A REMOVAL REQUEST
Google Support offers a variety of articles that provide specific details on the types of removals available. Each of these articles has more information on the requirements for Google to consider removing the content, as well as the factors Google considers when evaluating removal requests.
If the content does meet the requirements, you can start the request process with Google. Below are some of the steps you'll need to follow.
- Choose what you want Google to do with your information.
- Provide where you saw the information you want removed.
- Select a category your information.
- Provide your contact information and URLs of the website(s) where your information appears.
- In some cases, you may need to provide additional information to help prove your identity or other information.
After you submit the request, you’ll get an email confirmation. Google will review your request, gather more information if necessary, and then make a decision on whether or not it will remove the content. You’ll get a notification of any action taken. If your request is denied, you'll receive an explanation of why your request doesn’t meet requirements.
IF INFORMATION IS REMOVED FROM GOOGLE SEARCH, IS IT GONE FOREVER?
The short answer is no. Even if you get something removed from Google Search, it doesn’t mean it no longer exists on the Internet. Google Search shows information that’s gathered from websites around the web, and even if it’s removed from Google Search, the content may still exist elsewhere, including on the website that hosts it, through social media, and on other search engines.
Google will not take down any website that hosts the content in question, they just remove it from search results.
There’s a saying that you can never completely delete anything from the Internet, and that’s partially true. But, you can contact the owner of a page or website and ask them to remove the content. If this happens before Google has removed the information from Google Search, it will eventually be removed as part of Google's regular updates.