From blogs to websites, research papers to news articles — Google helps us find out the most accurate information in a matter of just a few seconds. However, this happy Google search experience can quickly turn into a nightmare if your personal information or sensitive personal data starts showing up in its search results. This can be shocking and embarrassing. But don’t worry. There are many ways to get this personal information removed from the internet. In this post, I will discuss how to remove your personal information from Google. I will also share tips on how to prevent your personal/sensitive information from leaking on the internet.
How may your personal information show up in Google search?
Google is the most popular and widely used search engine in the world. The primary goal of Google is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible. They do this through a 3-step process –
- Crawling – Google’s web crawler (an automated software) searches the entire web/internet for new/updated content
- Indexing – Google then understands the content and stores it in its huge database, which encompasses millions of computers.
- Serving the search results – When a user performs a search query, Google finds out the most relevant answers from its search index. The results appear as links to various web pages on search results.
Therefore, when someone publishes content which includes your private information such as your photos, email address, phone number or even bank account details, Google may index the page the same way it does for billions of other web pages on the internet. This is how your personal information may get exposed in Google search results.
Google search just acts as a medium to display the most relevant search results on the internet against someone’s search query. It absolutely has no role in publishing any personal information by itself in its search results. The real culprits are those blogs or websites which have published your private information (often without your explicit consent)
So how do I remove my personal information from Google?
If you just saw your private information indexed in Google search results, there is no need to panic. There are ways to get this removed not only from Google search results but also from the websites or blogs which have published this personal information about you.
The first step should ideally be to get this personal stuff removed from those blogs / websites. Because if the website owners take down this content, Google will index the updated content and that personal information will automatically stop showing up in Google search results.
How to contact the website/blog owners?
“Contact” or “About” pages are the two best places to find the contact information about any website owner. You might see the following type of contact options:
- Contact form on the webpage
- Address / Phone number
- Email address of the website owner
- Social media handles
Once you have decided how to contact the website owner, start writing your message. This is an example of how you may address your message:
Hi (Name of Website Owner), I hope you are doing well. While browsing the internet, I have noticed that you have published some personal information about me on your website at: (URL of the page) without my explicit consent. This invades my privacy rights and I find it very objectionable. I therefore humbly request you to please take it down from your web-page as soon as possible. A confirmation in this regard will be highly appreciated. Thanking You, (Your Full Name)
Ensure that you are not hostile in your message and state the facts as clearly as possible. Because if you turn hostile, the website owner may choose not to do any favor. Even worse, they may stoop to the level of asking for money to get your personal information removed from their webpage.
Once you are successful in your efforts, Google will also remove your personal information from its search results once it indexes the updated content.
However, if there is an unfavorable response from the website owner, you should directly approach Google to get the information removed from its search results. Although your personal information will remain published on the website, blocking its visibility on Google will at least limit the visibility of your private data from the larger public domain. Here is how you can make a removal request with Google…
Approaching Google to remove your personal information from search results
As per Google’s search policies, the following categories of personal information can qualify for removal requests from search results:
- Nonconsensual explicit nude/intimate images and videos
- Nonconsensual fake pornographic images and videos
- Content published about you on a website with exploitative removal practices
- Content that can pose a significant risk of identity theft and financial fraud. For example, content that includes personal data like National ID numbers, Bank account details, credit card numbers, images of signatures/bio-metrics or personal medical records.
- Doxing content
If the personal information that you want to remove falls under anyone of the above categories, please go ahead and make a removal request with Google right away.
That’s it. Once you have submitted the removal request, Google will review your application and proceed for removal of your personal information from its search results.
5 Tips to prevent your personal information from leaking on the internet
Let’s face it. Seeing your private photos and information published on the internet is outright embarrassing. But have you ever wondered how does your personal information leaks on the internet? It’s only because of a lapse on your own part. So here are some tips to prevent this from happening:
- Use a strong password for all online accounts that deal with your personal data. For example – your social media, banking, and financial services accounts. Another important thing is not to reuse the same password across all these accounts. I agree, it is difficult to remember so many strong passwords. Investing in trustworthy password manager apps like 1Password helps take care of all these issues.
- Your IP address is also a part of your personal information. Though it doesn’t reveal sensitive information like your contact number and residential address, it still can be used by hackers to snoop on your data packets and steal all the sensitive information that is transmitted on the network. I therefore strongly recommend that you use a reliable VPN such as NordVPN to protect your digital footprints. Therefore, whether you are posting on a forum or doing an online transaction, it is your responsibility to protect your network with a VPN connection.
- Limit the level of personal information you post online. For example, your photos, email addresses, phone numbers, bank account and credit card details are liable to be exposed if you post them carelessly on blog comments, forums, and social media accounts.
- Review the privacy settings of your social media accounts. Weak privacy invites prying eyes to all the personal stuff you post on your social media accounts.
- Be extra cautious if you use any online dating app or adult chat website. Never share your private data, intimate photos and video with anyone, no matter how private or secure the website claims to be. These dating apps bring strangers together. So, you can never be sure of the intention of the person on the other side.
So, at-least do what is in your hands. Take charge of your online activities and act with responsibility.
What are your thoughts?
I hope you have found this post helpful. If there is anything else that I may help you with, please ask in the comments below. What’s your experience with protecting your personal information on the internet? Please share your thoughts.
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