In recent years, Google has made it easier for users to take control of how much of their personal data appears in search results. That includes the ability to delete some personal information that could put you or your finances at risk.
Money expert Clark Howard says the tech industry is now providing tools for people to ask for information to be deleted. It’s in response to some states passing laws similar to the European Union’s “Right to be Forgotten” statute, which forces search engines to remove certain information upon request.
If your name or photo appears in Google’s search results and you want it removed, the company says it’s best to contact the owner of the website where the content was found. Of course, that’s not always easy (or even possible) to do.
Google has its own process for removing content. Clark says it’s “not easy to use,” so I tried it out myself. I’ve laid out the process in this article in hopes of making the tool a little more user-friendly.
Google says it evaluates each request to delete personal information on a case-by-case basis. Google says it can choose to:
- Remove the URL(s) from searches.
- Remove URL(s) from searches containing your name.
- Deny your request completely.
Why you may want your personal information removed from Google
People have different reasons for wanting to have web pages, articles and images removed from Google.
“Let’s say you were in a relationship once and you and your partner decided it would be cool to take some pictures,” Clark says. “There’s this kind of revenge where they post the pictures because it’s over and they’re mad at you and stuff. And that can be so embarrassing. And it can cost you a job and reputation damage.”
In other cases, the person may have had a civil or criminal case that was dropped or acquitted, and the search results of the incident could hurt their job prospects. In other cases, people who have been doxxed – the target of online harassment – may want their personal information erased from Google’s search results.
Whatever your reasons, there may be something you can do to get unwanted information or images of you from the internet, depending on what type of content it is.
What types of information can you remove from Google?
Google says it will typically remove personally identifiable information, including Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, images of handwritten signatures, medical records and confidential login information.
How long does it take for Google to remove content?
There is no hard and fast answer here. For outdated URLs, Google says processing can take a few days, but generally Google doesn’t give a specific time frame for how long the content removal process takes.
When it comes to images, Google says: “We understand that you may want to remove certain images from search results as soon as possible. However, removing images from search results can take some time.”
How to start the uninstall process?
Click here to start the removal process. You must select whether you:
- Remove information you see in a Google search.
- Remove information you see in Google Search and on a website (this option requires you to confirm that you’ve contacted the owner of the website).
1. Select the type of content you want to delete
You should choose one of the following options that best describes the content you want to remove:
- Personal information such as ID numbers and private documents
- Nude or Sexually Explicit Items
- Content about you or sites with exploitative takedown practices
- Content to be removed for legal reasons
- Images of someone who is currently under the age of 18
You will then be asked for your country of residence and the contact email address.
2. Choose whether the content is cached or live on the web
Next, you have to choose whether the content is cached or comes from live search results.
If the content is a cached page that may no longer exist but is still showing up in Google search results, follow the steps to remove outdated content.
To remove live search results, you’ll need to fill out a form to provide your personal information, including your name and the person’s name in the content (if different from yours). You must also provide the URL(s) you want to remove, as well as the Google search results page, if applicable.
3. Upload a screenshot
Google also recommends uploading a screenshot of the webpage. Depending on the type of information or images you want to be removed, you may need to upload them.
4. List the search terms
You can add the terms you used to retrieve the respective search results.
As an option, you can also include any additional context that may help your request. Then press Submit†
After you have completed the process, you will receive a confirmation email.
While I agree with Clark that the process could be even simpler, I personally found it relatively easy to request removal of personal information.
And remember that while Google is by far the most used search engine, if you want to be thorough, you should also look into getting your information out of Bing, Firefox, and other search engines.