Today, Google dominates the search market with an eye-watering 92.54% share. It indexes trillions of web pages and claims 5.4 billion searches a day. So naturally, everyone from businesses to influencers and even regular individuals wants their two seconds of fame on Google’s search results. It’s how brands reach mass audiences and grow their revenue and how ordinary citizens get their voices heard by millions worldwide.
Now all these advantages have a darker side, too. The enormous potential to earn fame and money with the search engine giant has given way to unregulated data collection and sharing practices that often cross ethical and legal boundaries.
As a result, all your personal data, whether it’s your home address, employment history, or financial records, could be available online for anyone to access.
The bottom line is, the ubiquitous power of search has made it near impossible to maintain privacy. And this could place you at tremendous risk. So, if you want to ensure privacy and safety in the long run, you need to remove personal information from Google. And in this article, we’ll show you how.
Remove your information from Google with 3 easy steps
Before we discuss how you can minimize your presence on Google, there are two critical steps you would need to cover.
- Understand what’s out there. You first need to review the scale and type of information that turns up on Google. To do this, search your name and scan the first 5 to 10 search engine results pages (SERPs). Now, according to studies, 75% of users do not go past the first result page. However, once you remove the content that appears on the first SERP, the results on the second result page will then advance to the first one. And so it will continue. Therefore, if your goal is to minimize your presence on Google, it’s essential to remove content from as many SERPs as possible.
- Determine what you want to remove. The data you want to delete will depend on your risk appetite and personal goals. Some may prefer to remove as much information as possible, whereas others may decide to keep details with a positive bearing. Besides, not all information will place you at risk. So, classify which data you prefer to keep on and off Google. Review all types of content, from text to images and videos.
Once you identify the information you want to remove, it’s time to start the removal process.
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1. Remove data from personal accounts.
There are many types of data sources to which you have direct access. These can include personal blogs and websites, community publishing platforms such as HubPages and Medium, social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, and public forums like Quora. If you have engaged with any of them even once, then you have likely left a data trail in the form of accounts, public profiles, comments, likes, opinions, posts, photos, videos, and so on. Review and delete unwanted content and consider closing accounts you don’t frequently use.
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There could also be other types of user accounts you may have opened over the years to, for example, make an online purchase or stream a movie. These can also expose your personal data by means of data sharing, trading, and even hacking attacks. So, delete both their content and the accounts themselves where possible.
2. Remove data from third-party publishers and aggregators.
Once you remove what’s accessible to you, you next need to focus on what is not. These can include news sites, content publishers, and data aggregators and collectors such as publicly available databases. So, go through each site and submit a request either via email or using their online forms. Keep a record of all communications.
Now, removing information on these third-party sites will not always be easy. They may not be under a legal obligation to delete your content. And even if they are, not everyone may comply. But some may respect your wishes and be willing to remove the relevant information. As for others, your best course of action would be to avoid creating opportunities for them to access your personal data in the future. This inevitably demands a cautious and responsible data sharing approach.
3. Remove data from Google search results.
Once you remove content from original data sources, i.e., web pages, they will automatically disappear from Google search results. However, sometimes this could take a while. Google is constantly scanning websites and updating its data library. But there are times it will miss certain updates. In those instances, the deleted content could still appear on search results. If so, you can submit a deletion request to Google by providing a link to the relevant obsolete web page. Once it reviews and verifies that the content no longer exists within the original source, it will then remove it from its search results.
Google also provides the option to remove explicit and exploitative content and confidential data such as medical and financial records that may place you at substantial risk if compromised. This is especially useful when the original publisher refuses to remove them from their site.
Once you submit the request, Google will first verify that the publisher has violated its policies and remove the content. But remember, this will not delete any data from the original source. It will simply prevent them from turning up on Google’s search results.
Keep in mind that it’s no longer possible to remain completely anonymous online. You’re bound to carry some form of digital data trail. Besides, not all Google visibility is harmful.
If curated effectively, it might even provide a boost to your personal image and significantly improve your career prospects. But taking control of your data footprint on Google is imperative, so you can minimize any potential risks.