Have You Googled Yourself Lately?

Category: Search-Engines

Have you ever used Google to search your own name, address or phone number? In an age of powerful search engines, social media, and changing attitudes about privacy, you might be shocked to see what a casual searcher can learn about you. If you're okay with that level of transparency, then fine. If not, read on for some tips on what you can do about it...

Removing Personal Information From Google

If you search for yourself on Google, you may be surprised by the results. Things you posted on social media without thinking twice; blog posts or news reports that mention you in an unflattering or libelous manner; an embarrassing photo; even your home address or phone number; ... all of these are examples things you'd probably wish you could remove from Google.

Just today I saw an example of a well-meaning person who saw a neighbor dumping trash. He posted a photo on social media of the man's truck, along with his name, license plate number and home address. Thankfully, several people warned that this could put both the poster and the bad neighbor in danger, and the personal information was removed. But that doesn't always happen.

It's not easy to remove information from Google (or any other search engine), once it gets found and indexed. Google's business is indexing Internet content so that people can search it. Since Google does not control what is published on the Web, you have to start with the person who did publish what you want removed.

If you published something you regret, delete it. If the offending info is on someone else's site, ask the poster, publisher or site administrator to delete it. Then, when Google's Web-crawler indexes the site again, it will delete Google's cached copy of the now-missing content, and it will no longer appear in search results. But that may take a while, depending on how often Google indexes that particular website. To speed up the process, you can file a remove outdated content request with Google. But first, you must be sure that the content you want removed from Google search results has been removed from the Web.

Rremove Google Listing

If you can't get the content owner to remove the offending content, there are some special cases in which Google will intervene. On the Remove your personal information from Google help page, Google lists things such as "non-consensual explicit or intimate personal images," "financial, medical and national ID information," and cases where “doxxing” (exposing information with an intent to harm) is involved. Google won't help you remove the offending information from the page where it exists, but they will expunge it from their search engine database so it is not easily found.

More Removal Tools

Google has another tool for requesting removal of content from sites it owns, including Google Search, YouTube, Google Maps, and others. Requests for removal through this tool must rely on legal issues, i.e., violation of copyright, privacy, or child p**nography laws.

My article Is There a Delete Button for the Internet? discusses your options for removing personal data from social media, online phone directories and other places.

The best way to keep unflattering information about yourself out of Google is to keep it off the public Internet. That means tightening up the privacy controls of all your online hangouts: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc., etc. Also, watch what you say in web forums, which are also indexed by Google unless the administrator has added a "do not index" tag to his forum. Be careful what you post on your own website, Facebook page, or blog.

Dealing with other people who control content you don't want in Google requires diplomacy, lawyers, or both. It's always best to start with a polite approach: "Hi, sorry to bother you but I have a problem with this content... would you please delete it?" You'd be surprised by how cooperative neutral strangers can be.

You can use Google Alerts to monitor what's being said about you or your business online. There are also very expensive services like Reputation Defender that will fight on your behalf to remove offensive or incorrect content.

Of course, if it's someone who has a grudge against you, you may need to decide whether getting the offending content removed is worth the cost of these services, or even legal fees. But there's always the bluff. Sometimes sending a threatening letter spiced with a bit of legalese will do the trick.

But Wait, There's More...

Of course, Google is not the only search engine in town. Although it has a smaller reach, you should search for yourself on Microsoft's Bing search engine as well. If you find something that's troubling, use the Report a Concern to Bing page. You can report broken links or outdated pages, unauthorized use of intellectual property, child p**nography, offensive material, exposure of private information or images, or malicious pages.

In addition to searching for your personal info on Google or Bing, there's one more place you might want to look. The Internet Archive is a collection of over 600 billion Web pages, captured over the past 25 years. You can use it to see what a Web page looked like in the past. The point here is that something pertaining to you might have been removed from a given website years ago, but still lives on in this archive.

Do you have any good tricks for getting personal info removed from Google or the Web? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Have You Googled Yourself Lately?"

Posted by:

10 Sep 2021

the first thing i do with a new browser, is dump goggle. thats how i goggle myself!!!

Posted by:

10 Sep 2021

The term is Egosurfing, as I recall.

Posted by:

10 Sep 2021

Your last article was describing the billions of personal data-points that have been hacked and that data was made available on the web (dark-side, or otherwise).
I can't help but wonder how much of all of those hacked personal data-points have enriched the individual dossiers that gOOgle has on all of us... I would not be too surprised if gOOgle is the first... and the winning bid on such data troves.

Posted by:

10 Sep 2021

With Windows 11, you MUST use a Microsoft account. I suspect Microsoft will know more about you than Google does, and in a very short amount of time.

Posted by:

10 Sep 2021

Dear BOB:
As usual very interesting and important information from YOU, thanks.

Posted by:

10 Sep 2021

@Joe; Please check other sources for the accuracy of your "MUST" statement. At the current time, it is being reported that this MSA log-in requirement will be for Windows11 "Home" (or equivalent) version. This makes sense, as the enterprise users of WindowsOS, require non-MSA credential to log into their systems for security/control/etc. reasons, if I am NOT mistaken. Windows11 "Pro" version (as w/win10Pro) will probably retain local-account log-in.

Posted by:

10 Sep 2021

Windows 10.019042 Home also requires that you open an acct & provide all that personal information in order to load the OS with the option to delete the acct afterwards. All that does is delete my access to the acct data but does not delete my personal info from Microsoft's data base. I dumped MS Office because I refuse to pay a subscription price for software. I am using a different office package and it meets my needs.
Also, Win10 deleted several useful features and re placed them with intrusive and/or unappealing apps for which I have absolutely no use and have deleted all that I can. If Win11 is worse than 10 in this respect, I will dump Microsoft completely. I don't need or use the MS Store. Being a victim of ID fraud, I am withdrawing from and boycotting everything that pushes me in that direction. Peace.

Posted by:

12 Sep 2021

I googled my name. Not surprisingly, several dozen (maybe several hundred) hits came up, but they were all others with my name. I am not even a "Tom Smith", but my name is common enough, it would be difficult for anyone to identify me. If I put in my full middle name, only genealogy sites and my 50 year-old PhD dissertation come up. Not a concern.

Posted by:

Bob Kinsler
04 Oct 2021

What is bad is when you have another individual with the same first, middle initial, and last name. And writes for publication too.

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