I Just Googled Myself, And I Feel Fine!

Category: Privacy

Have you ever Googled your name 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 ever search for yourself on Google, you may be surprised by the results. Things you posted to Twitter that groggy morning after a bachelor party; blog posts or news reports that mention you in an unflattering or libelous manner; an embarrassing photo; even your home address, phone number or Social Security Number... all of these are examples things you'd probably wish you could remove from Google.

It's not easy to remove information from Google (or any other search engine). Google's business is indexing Internet content so that people can search it. Since Google does not control what is published on the Net, 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 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 weeks or months, depending on how often Google indexes that particular website.
Rremove Google Listing

To speed up the process, you can file a removal 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. Again, this is easy if you control the publishing site. But if someone else does, and you can't get that person to remove the offending content, Google won't delete it from search results.

More Removal Tools

Google has another tool for requesting removal of content from sites it owns, including Google Search, YouTube, Android Marketplace, 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 Remove Phone Listing discusses privacy, transparency, online phone directories, and what to do if you want to remove your phone number from these public databases.

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, Photobucket, Flickr, 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 Web site 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.

See my related article Your Online Reputation for some tips on how to monitor what's being said about your or your business online, and also a couple of paid services 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 or 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.

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 "I Just Googled Myself, And I Feel Fine!"

Posted by:

03 May 2011

I am concerned that my 18 year old son has an arrest record and mug shot on line. This happened in Oct. of 2010, and mug shot etc is still posted. Charge was possession of cannabis. Charge was expunged. How long will this information on his arrest and mug shot be left on line for anyone to see who googles his name. Thank you for your answer.

EDITOR'S NOTE: That depends on where it's posted. Check with the police, the newspaper or whoever posted the photo, to see if it can be removed.

Posted by:

Bob Greene
04 May 2011

THE NEXT INTERVIEW -- The best general rule of thumb for trusting, enthusiastic, creative and free-spirited Millennials is to treat every Twitter twit and Facebook comment as the nemesis topic of your next interview.

Never say anything, good or bad, that is not framed by facts. Comments represent attitudes that can and will be used against the job applicant-- fairly or unfairly.

Privacy or not, fair or not, this is a different world from only a decade ago. No wonder Dilbert considers his human resources director "evil".

Posted by:

Darcetha Manning
15 Nov 2011

I agree with the statement Bob Greene made on May 4, 2011. People need to realize that the internet is public domain, therefore, anything you say on the internet, can be used against you.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Just to clarify... "public domain" is a legal term that's not really the same as what you mean. There is plenty of public domain material online, but copyright and privacy laws still apply on the Internet.

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