Knowing how to remove your personal information from Google is an essential skill. Sensitive data is published, bought, and sold on a daily basis by businesses, brokers, governments, and cybercriminals. Their motives aren't always pure, so being clued up on how to quickly take it offline has obvious privacy and security benefits.
There are ways to get Google to remove some of your personal information from its search results, but other entities – such as data brokers – also hold details on millions of individuals. Luckily, tools like Incogni exist to help you remove your data from the web with minimal effort.
In this guide, we’ll take you through precisely what information can be removed from Google, how to request its removal, and other ways to take your data off the web.
Why You May Want To Remove Your Information From Google
Your information is a valuable asset to all sorts of organizations and individuals. If someone can simply conduct a Google search and find personal info about you – often referred to as your “digital footprint” it could affect your life in a variety of negative ways.
For example, if your email address and phone number are available online, a hacker could use them to try and break into your work or personal accounts. They could even steal your identity. Making things worse, many people still don't use password managers to help them secure their online presence with truly strong and unique passcodes. It's why so many folks find themselves hacked each and every day.
A public figure may want to remove information from Google and the rest of the internet that they consider to misrepresent or defame them in some way.
Aside from the websites that appear in Google search results, there are other entities holding your data online. Data brokers also hold personal information pertaining to millions of people and sell it to companies who want to contact you with products or services, such as insurance companies providing quotes to individuals.
All in all, there are a number of different reasons why you may want your info removed from Google, or scrubbed from the internet in general. Here are a few:
- The information might be out of date or incorrect
- The information could be used to harm you (e.g. doxxing)
- The information could be used by criminals (e.g. identity theft)
- The information could be sold to businesses for marketing purposes
There may be other reasons you want information relating to your person – or being presented as relating to your person – from Google, such as:
- The information may be libelous, defamatory, or incorrect
- Someone may be profiting from publishing your personal or copyrighted information
What Information Can Be Removed From Google?
There are various types of information that can be removed from Google. However, bear in mind that some types are easier to scrub from the search engine's results page than others.
Remember, removing information from Google doesn’t necessarily mean you’re removing it from the internet – it just means Google won’t list it in its search results. Granted, once unlisted, the info will be much harder to find, but it’s not the same as having it deleted. To do this, you may have to contact the owner of the website you discover it on and ask them to delete it, or in extreme cases, pursue legal action against them.
If it's data brokers that have the information you want to be taken down, you'll have to message all of them and request that they take you off their systems. Alternatively, you might find it's easier to use a tool like Incogni to manage this process for you. Read on and we'll explain more.
To remove a lot of information from Google, you’ll have to complete a Google removal request form. We’ll also discuss how to go through this process later on. You'll be able to remove other information yourself by changing settings on websites and accounts you manage.
Information that can be removed from Google
Below, we’ll take you through some categories of information that can usually be removed from Google. As recently as 2022, Google made it easier to remove certain types of personal information – such as phone numbers – which may pose a risk of identity theft.
Personal or private information
There are certain types of information that Google is very likely to remove if you send a removal request. Extremely sensitive pieces of information like social security numbers, for example, are likely to be removed if you ask. Other types of personal information that can be removed include:
- Copies of your signature
- Bank account details
- Passport or travel document details
- Phone numbers
- Physical addresses
- Medical documents
- Compromising/explicit images or videos
- Legal documents
Effectively, it’s any information that really shouldn’t be in the public domain and may cause an individual significant harm if it stays there.
Defamatory or illegal content
Defamatory material that is legally libelous/slanderous also has quite a high chance of being removed from search results pages if the person being slandered requests it.
Google will also often act when illegal content is published, such as ransomware or cybercrime-as-a-service programs, or explicit material posted without an individual’s consent.
Information that infringes copyright laws
One common reason information or media is removed from Google – as well as the rest of the internet – is if it violates copyright laws. Domains that show bootleg streams of subscription TV services, sports events, or make banks of pirated movies available all violate copyright laws in countries like the US.
Although there are different laws surrounding copyright infringement around the world, by far the most well-known legal statute that can help you if someone is using your material without your permission is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
As Google says on its page entitled “Reporting Content for Legal Reasons” (the first section of the form is pictured below), the tech giant's policy is to “comply with notices of copyright infringement pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.”
However, be aware that copyright laws in the US are restrained by the concept of “fair use”. Copyrighted material, as Google puts it, can be used for “criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research” without it violating copyright laws like the DMCA.
Information located on websites or accounts you control
Of course, it’s simple to remove information from Google if you’re in control of the domain or website that the information is published on.
You can do this pretty easily by deleting pages from the website that include information that you’d like to take down, making the page private on the back end of your website, or un-indexing your site or a specific page from Google.
Similarly, if you’ve made an account with an organization that is showing up in Google search results (such as a portfolio builder), you can simply delete your account or pages that are showing up, and they will be shortly removed from the search engine results pages.
Links to your social media profiles
You may be able to remove other personal information from Google’s search results page without contacting the company – such as the social media profiles you own.
For example, in your Facebook settings, you can toggle on and off whether your profile appears in search engine results for your name or related searches. You can also turn your public visibility off on LinkedIn, which has a similar effect.
If you don’t want your Twitter profile to appear in Google’s search engine results, you can protect your tweets by making your account private.
Remember, if you do make the above changes, your accounts won’t instantly disappear from results pages. It may take some time for Google to register the changes, but usually this isn't too long.
Information that can’t be removed from Google
Google does not simply remove any information that gets requested. If a public figure hits the headlines after they receive a DUI, they cannot simply get all the articles reporting on the case removed from Google because it's an embarrassing situation for them.
On top of this, if an official source (like a government agency) has posted the information you'd like taken down or removed from Google Search, it’s unlikely you will be successful.
Google itself recommends that, in many cases, contacting the owner of the website the information you want to be removed is hosted on is your best bet for getting it taken down (more on this below).
How To Request Google Remove Your Information
You can start the removal request process via Google by filling in this form (or, if you'd like to report other content on Google, use this separate form). Once you head over to that page, you’ll be asked whether you want to remove information from Google, or prevent it from being shown in Google, like this:
Once you decide which option better fits your situation, you’ll have to provide a little more information about where the content you’d like to be removed is located, whether you’ve contacted the website and the type of information it is.
Eventually, Google will ask you to provide your personal details (or if you’re making a request on behalf of someone else, their details) as well as the URL of the page containing the information you’d like removed from the results page.
Overall, the process can be completed pretty quickly, but of course, not all information submitted will end up being removed from Google's search results pages.
Other Ways To Remove Information From Google
If Google can’t help you, you won’t be entirely out of options – there are a few other things you can do to ensure your information is taken down. You may also want to try these options if you want the information removed from the internet entirely, not just from Google's search results.
The direct route
If Google won't remove a given piece of information from its search results , you may want to contact the owner of the website that has published that information directly. In fact, you may even want to do this before you contact Google, provided you feel comfortable doing so and contacting the site won't put you in harm's way.
This can sometimes be even quicker than going through the Google removal request process. If the information isn’t financially valuable or useful to the website owner – or isn’t included on a top-performing page – there will be little reason for them to keep it up.
Of course, it still very much depends on the type of information you’d like removed, as well as the nature of the website.
The legal route
If the website hosting the content you want to be taken down isn’t playing ball – and neither is Google – then you could pursue legal action against the website owner.
This is a route some people feel forced to go down if they consider content published about them to be libelous, but the website owner or Google does not. Typically, this would start with the filing of a cease and desist letter, and end with a court case if said letter is not complied with. If you win your case, the website will have to take the content down, or they'll face charges.
However, it’s very hard to go down the legal route if the website you’re sending a cease and desist letter to is operating in a different country, under different laws and regulations. You're going to struggle to persuade an individual to fly to your country and participate in a legal case. Legal battles are also expensive, regardless of whether you’re successful.
The Best Tools To Remove Personal Information From Google
On the internet, there’s an ecosystem of useful tools available that will help you to remove your personal information from Google, and force companies holding your data to delete it. Here's a quick rundown of the most popular ones available:
Surfshark, the company behind the best cheap VPN, has just released a new data broker removal tool called Incogni. It's simple to use and is one of the most stress-free and fastest ways to remove your data.
You can input your name and email address, and then Incogni will contact data brokers holding that information and request that they remove it from their systems. Incogni will also handle any ensuing conversations regarding the removal of your information and repeat the process if it's reuploaded.
Best of all, Incogni's annual plan is currently 50% off and available for just $6.49 per month, but you can also just buy the software for a single month for $12.99 – a small price to pay for taking back control of your data.
Another popular tool is DeleteMe. DeleteMe will request your data be taken down by data brokers and will also monitor the brokers to ensure the process is repeated if your information is uploaded at a later date. Pricing starts from $10.75 per month, but is billed as an annual subscription of $129.
If you can’t afford DeleteMe’s hefty subscription fees, the company has a number of do-it-yourself “opt-out guides” which take you through the process of removing your data from some of the world’s biggest brokers. However, as we mentioned, completing this process manually can become very time-consuming.
There are a number of other options too, including PrivacyBee. This is an all-encompassing privacy software suite, with marketing list removal, data breach monitoring, and tracker-blocking features included along with a data broker removal service. It does cost $197 per year, however.
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