In recent years, Google has made it easier for users to take control over how much of their personal data appears in its search results. That includes the ability to remove some personal information that could put you or your finances at risk.
Money expert Clark Howard says the tech industry now makes tools available to let people ask for information to be removed. 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 delist certain information on request.
If your name or picture is coming up in Google search results and you want it removed, the company says the best thing to do is contact the owner of the website where the content is found. Of course, that’s not always easy (or even possible) to do.
Google does have its own content removal process. 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 easier for you to use.
Table of contents
Google says it evaluates each request to remove personal information on a case-by-case basis. Google says it may choose to:
- Remove the URL(s) from search queries.
- Remove the URL(s) from search queries that include your name.
- Deny your request altogether.
Why You Might Want Your Personal Information Removed From Google
People have various reasons for wanting webpages, articles and images removed from Google.
“Let’s say at one time, you were in a relationship and you and your partner decided it would be cool to take some pictures,” Clark says. “There’s the revenge thing where they post the pictures because you broke up and they’re mad at you and all that. And that can be so embarrassing. And it can cost you a job and reputational harm.”
In other cases, the person may have had a civil or criminal case that was expunged or they were exonerated, and the search results of the incident may be hurting their chances of employment. In other cases, people who have been doxxed — targeted for online harassment — may want their personal information erased from Google search results.
No matter your reasons, there may be something you can do about getting unwanted information or images of you taken off the internet depending on the 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 Google To Remove Content?
There’s no hard and fast answer here. For outdated URLs, Google says processing can take a few days, but in general, Google doesn’t give a specific time period for how long the content removal process takes.
When it comes to pictures, here’s what Google says: “We understand that you may want to remove certain images from search results as soon as possible. However, the process of removing images from search results can take some time.”
How To Start the Removal Process
To start the removal process, click here. You’ll need to select whether you want to:
- Remove information you see in a Google search.
- Remove information you see in Google search and on a website (With this option, you’ll need to confirm whether or not you’ve reached out to the website owner).
1. Select the Type of Content You Want To Remove
You must choose one of the following options that best describes the content you want to be removed:
- Personal information like ID numbers and private documents
- Nude or sexually explicit items
- Content about you or sites with exploitative removal practices
- Content that should be removed for legal reasons
- Imagery of someone currently under the age of 18
Then you’ll be asked for your country of residence and contact email address.
2. Choose Whether the Content Is Cached or Live on the Web
Next, you’ll need to choose whether the content is cached or from live search results.
If the content is a cached page that may no longer exist but is still appearing in Google search results, you’ll need to 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 name of the person in the content (if different than yours). You’ll also need to provide the URL(s) that you want to remove as well as the Google search results page, if applicable.
3. Upload a Screenshot
Google also recommends that you upload a screenshot of the webpage. Depending on the type of information or imagery you’re asking be removed, uploading it may be required.
4. List the Query Terms
You can add the terms that you used to pull up the search results in question.
As an option, you can also list any additional context that might help your request. After that, hit Submit.
After you’ve completed the process, you’ll get a confirmation email.
Although I do agree with Clark that the process could be even simpler, I personally found it relatively easy to request that personal information be taken down.
And remember that, although Google is the most-used search engine by far, if you want to be thorough, you need to look into removing your information from Bing, Firefox and other search engines as well.