What information is publicly available when you type your name into Google’s search engine? While you might not have any dark secrets to hide, it’s not exactly comforting to discover that searching your name can produce details about you, such as where you live (with satellite and street-view images just another click away), where you work and when you were born.
In April, Google announced it would offer new options for anyone who wants to remove personally identifiable information from the databases used by its search engine. Given that Google dominates the global market share for search engines and is the most visited website in the world, with as many as 8.5 billion visits daily, this could significantly decrease the chances of others accessing your info.
What Information Can You Remove From Google?
Google already has procedures in place that allow you to protect your information. For instance, you’ve long been able to blur images of your home on Google Maps and opt out of sharing personal info. In addition, Google Search allows users to request the removal of specific, highly personal content that could cause direct harm. These include:
- Non-consensual explicit or intimate personal images (aka revenge porn)
- Involuntary fake pornography (where a person’s likeness is digitally edited onto another person’s body in a sexually explicit setting)
- Irrelevant pornography from Google search results for your name
- Content about you on sites with exploitative removal practices
- Images of minors
But as the internet and its usage continue to constantly evolve, Google has also acknowledged the need for its policies to keep up. With its new guidelines, you can request removal of even more types of information found in search results, including your personal contact information and other data that could present a risk for identity theft.
So, now you can ask Google to remove personally identifiable information from Google Search results, which includes:
- Confidential government identification numbers, such as your Social Security number
- Bank account and credit card numbers
- Images of handwritten signatures
- Images of identification documents
- Highly personal, restricted and official records, such as your medical history
- Personal contact information, like your physical address, phone number and email address
- Confidential login credentials
How to Remove Your Info from Google
If you want Google to remove information from its search, you must complete a removal request. Visit Google’s Request to Remove Personal Information form and select Remove information you see in Google Search.
Next, you’ll be asked to choose whether the information is in search results and on a website or only in Google’s search results. Depending on your selection, you’ll be given specific directions to follow. For instance, if the content appearing in Google searches is from a deleted website, you’ll need to provide the URL of the page. Similarly, to remove an image, you must provide the link address of the picture.
Once you have submitted a removal request, Google will evaluate the content to determine whether it meets the removal criteria. For instance, if the data is included in a news article or is a public record that’s available on a government website, Google will not be able to remove the information.
You will get an automated email confirming Google received the request. If more information is needed, you’ll also receive specific instructions. Finally, you will get a notification about any action taken.
It’s important to note that these steps only let you remove content from Google Search results. Even if your removal request is accepted, it won’t delete the personal information from the internet completely or remove the website where it appears. It will still be accessible from other search engines.
If you want information about yourself removed from a specific website, the best option will be to contact the webmaster of that site. Look for a “Contact Us” link or email address for the webmaster on the site’s homepage, search Whois.com to find out who owns the site or contact the site’s hosting company, which will also be listed by Whois under “Registrar.”
For more help and information about removing your data from Google search results, check out the Frequently Asked Questions section of Google’s Help Center.
By Tricia Goss, for Newsy.
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