We’ve all wished we could just drop from the face of the earth after a deeply embarrassing social blunder. In the internet age, this is, frankly, impossible to achieve. Even if you delete all of your data from all of your internet accounts there will still remain a record of it tucked away in some odd corner.
Google is a search engine. Its job is to aggregate data about the subject you request, and spit out everything it’s got for anyone who asks. That’s why your personal information is available to anyone with just a few clicks, and up to now, neither you nor Google has had much control over where your name appears.
Some of the publicly information may be private, sensitive, or even harmful to you or your family, and consumers are increasingly focusing on how to remove personal information from Google.
Where does Google’s data come from?
Google’s ability to deliver results is the result of its deep integration into thousands of apps and almost all the websites that we use on a daily basis. Google apps are easy to use, convenient for multi-tasking, and highly effective.
These advantages have also caused Google to become the biggest data gathering operation in existence. Because Google records every site you’ve ever visited, the GPS location of your smartphone, your email, social media activities, and even work activities, they have become frighteningly good at finding your personal data wherever it appears online.
Your private information is a commodity
While privacy pressure groups have introduced ways for users to opt-out of personalized search results, Big Tech still gathers any and all of the data you generate while you do your ‘anonymized’ internet surfing. The scary part is that your information is a commodity. It’s sold to advertisers, marketers, data brokers, and more.
There are also data breaches, every day, around the world. This stolen information also gets sold to scammers, cyber criminals, and a new breed of online information peddlars that are increasingly invading the private lives of ordinary, law-abiding citizens.
Can we balance our right to privacy with our need for information?
People-search sites may have started out with good intentions, but the industry has become a major threat to privacy, online safety, and even our physical safety. These data brokers publish your information online without your consent.
The right to be forgotten is a concept that has been converted to laws in the European Union (EU) and is meant to allow a person to remove old and inaccurate information from internet search results. Additionally, it makes provision for people to remove damaging nsalutary information about past events or actions to prevent perpetual stigmatization.
Google and the right to be forgotten
The right to be forgotten entitles you to remove information that was at some stage available as a matter of public record, and to prevent future access to that information, whereas the right to privacy involves your right to protect currently private information from becoming publicly known.
Anyone who wishes for more privacy on the internet must confront two separate issues.
Firstly, Google has a mass of data about your interests, search history, and everything else. You’ve been feeding the machine with your every whim and click for years, and this information assists Google to find your details whenever someone conducts a search engine searches for your name.
Secondly, Google is a search engine for seekers of information, and its algorithms are superb at finding information about the subject you request. If you don’t want certain information popping up whenever someone types in your name, there are two separate actions you need to take but are worth doing:
STEP 1: Removing personal data that Google has collected,
STEP 2: Removing the data available on Google’s search results.
STEP 1: How to remove the personal data file that Google has on you:
Log in to your Google account first and go to Google’s personal data hub – MyActivity.
On the left, you’ll see the “Delete activity by” option.
Select “delete by date” and click on “all time.”
Select the “delete by all products” option and click the “delete” button.
Google claims that this simple procedure erases all the data of your web search history and identity, but gives no assurance that the data is gone forever. Still, it can’t hurt doing this frequently.
STEP 2: Removing data from Google’s search results
There are three main methods: Request the removal of outdated URLs, log a legal removal request, or use a professional data cleanup tool.
Method 1: Sink those outdated websites
You can request that Google shelves outdated websites which still contain information about your past that you don’t want to be publically available. Use Google’s URL removal tool to report the site to Google search results as “outdated”. If the site has become inactive, Google won’t show it in future search results.
However, if you want to remove personal information from Google entirely, you’ll have to use another method.
Method 2: Speak legalese to Google
Google’s mission is to make all information publicly available and won’t remove all URLs that contain personal data, but in recent years, the search company has expanded the use of the EU “right to be forgotten” principle somewhat, leading to successful takedowns in the USA.
Lodge a legal removal request using the “Removing Content from Google” tool that you can find here, and select the appropriate legal reason from the option list for the “removal of personal information”. You can use the “right to be forgotten” option, but keep in mind that only the EU has laws that can back you, so your request may not be successful.
STEP 3: Use a data clean-up service
The fastest way to get results is by using an online reputation management tool, especially when you are suffering damage from inappropriate listings by so-called people-search sites. These data brokers in disguise create shadow profiles populated with data from highly unreliable sources to attract website traffic and convince you to pay for the removal of their highly inaccurate or injurious data.
When you multiply the effort and cost of each removal you’ll soon understand the scale of the problem. There are hundreds of these sites, with more appearing every day.
OneRep was founded in 2015 to combat this plague. Their online tools find such information, remove it and monitor hundreds of sites to spot and combat reappearance since many of these unsavory sites simply re-publish the information after a short interval.
Prevention is much easier than fixing the problem
By now, you must be heartily sick of the sight of your name on a screen. Prevent the same information from getting lodged in the big machine again! Your information is worth good money to everyone else out there. Stay informed, do the research, and be cautious when you use the internet.