Are you worried about how much of your personal data Google has access to? Do you want to remove sensitive details like your address, phone number, IDs, and other private information from their search results?
You‘re not alone – studies show 77% of Americans are concerned about the amount of private data available online about them. The good news is you can take back control of your privacy by deleting personal details from Google searches.
In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll cover everything you need to know to remove your personal information from Google and reclaim your privacy in the digital age.
How Personal Information Gets Indexed by Google
Before we get into removal tactics, it helps to understand how your private details end up searchable on Google in the first place:
As a U.S. resident, you likely have various public records available containing your personal information:
- Real estate transactions – Home purchases, sales, mortgages, foreclosures, property taxes.
- Marriage & divorce – Marriage licenses, divorce decrees.
- Births & deaths – Birth/death certificates, obituaries.
- Court cases – Civil suits, bankruptcies, restraining orders, criminal cases.
- Voter registration – Party affiliation, home address, date of birth.
These are considered government documents accessible to the public. Google will readily index the personal details contained in them.
Over 3.5 billion public records were digitized in 2020 alone according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.
Social Media Activity
Personal info you voluntarily share on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube can also end up as search engine results:
- Your full name & username
- Profile photo
- Bio details like employer, school, location
- Posts with addresses, phone numbers, email
- Dates like birthdays, anniversaries
- Photos or videos depicting you
Roughly 77% of Americans have social media profiles containing extensive personal data according to 2021 surveys by Statista.
When you sign-up for accounts on websites and online services, you commonly provide:
- Full name
- Email address
- Phone number
- Physical address
- Banking/payment information
- Legal names
This self-submitted data can get publicly exposed.
The average internet user has over 100 online accounts according to a Microsoft study.
Data brokers like Spokeo, WhitePages, MyLife, and PeopleFinders compile information on virtually all U.S. consumers from public records, social media, court documents, store loyalty programs, mailing lists, and other sources.
They sell this data to clients like telemarketers, debt collectors, law enforcement agencies, and advertisers. But it also ends up in search engine results.
2,500+ data broker sites exist in the U.S. alone compiling dossiers on people‘s personal information according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Hacks & Security Breaches
Websites that get hacked and have their account databases compromised put your information at great risk. In major data breaches like Yahoo in 2013 (3 billion accounts) and Adult Friend Finder in 2016 (412 million accounts), huge troves of personal information flooded the dark web.
An average of 190,000 healthcare records are breached each month in the U.S. alone according to HIPAA Journal‘s statistics.
Once your information is "in the wild" online from any of these sources, Google will add it to their search database for anyone to find. That‘s why removing it quickly is so crucial.
Dangers of Personal Information Being Public
You may wonder why it matters if some basic information about you is available through a Google search. Consider the many dangers:
Financial Fraud & Identity Theft
With key details like your Social Security number, birthdate, current address, and family members, identity thieves can open fraudulent credit cards and bank accounts, take over your existing accounts, file fake tax returns for refunds, and commit other financial crimes.
Identity theft accounted for over $56 billion in losses last year according to the Identity Theft Resource Center‘s 2021 report.
Medical Identity Theft
Details like your Medicare ID number, health insurance information, and medical history can be used to illegally obtain prescriptions, file false insurance claims, or have procedures done in your name. This can impact your healthcare access and medical records.
Medical identity theft impacts over 2.3 million Americans yearly according to the World Privacy Forum, costing billions in losses.
Targeted Cyber Attacks
Basic information like your name, email address and physical location makes you vulnerable to spear phishing schemes, password reset exploits through security questions, phone number porting attacks, and other targeted hacking methods.
Spear phishing attacks rose 70% in 2021 according to security firm Cofense, often leveraging leaked personal information.
Stalking & Harassment
Access to your address history, phone numbers, workplace, age, photos, and family details can empower stalkers or abusive individuals to track you down and continually harass you online and physically.
One in 17 U.S. individuals are victims of severe online harassment according to a 2017 Pew Research study.
Outdated, inaccurate, or unflattering information appearing in search results can damage your professional reputation or social standing. Mugshots, arrests, bankruptcies, or gossip can hurt your career and relationships.
75% of employers now screen candidates via search engines according to CareerBuilder surveys.
Clearly, keeping control of your personal information is crucial. Next we‘ll explore steps to find and remove private details from Google Search.
Finding Your Personal Information on Google
To have data removed, you first need to know what personal information is actually visible on Google. Here are tips to uncover what‘s exposed:
Search Your Full Name
Start by searching your first and last name in quotes which will isolate results just about you specifically, rather than people who share your first or last name. Look for any details that appear like:
- Addresses where you‘ve lived
- Associated phone numbers
- Email addresses
- Employment details
- Photos of you
- Legal records
- Social media & forum accounts
Search Name Variations
Also search for any common name or username variations like:
- Full name without quotes
- First name + last initial (i.e. John S.)
- Initials + last name (i.e. J. Smith)
- First name + birth year (i.e. Jane1990)
See if web pages with these alternate names expose additional personal info.
Search Emails & Phone Numbers
Type your current and past email addresses and phone numbers with area codes into Google wrapped in quotes. See if they appear on any public sites, documents, directories, or forums.
Check Google Services
Head to Google Dashboard and review data Google has collected about you based on searches, Chrome browsing, location history, YouTube activity, and more. Delete anything sensitive.
Also check Ad Settings. Google builds advertising profiles based on your activity and demographics to target relevant ads to you.
Use Advanced Search Filters
Leverage Google‘s advanced search filters to isolate results by date ranges, languages, file types, sites, regions, etc. Helpful filters include:
- Searching specific sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, forums, etc)
- Limiting results to PDFs, DOCs, or PPTs with potential documents
- Focusing on your current or past geographic locations
Run Privacy Checkup Tools
Use online privacy scanning tools like these to automate searching for your personal info:
- Google Privacy Checkup – Finds your info across Google services
- NameCheckr – Searches popular people search sites
- IntelTechniques – Checks numerous data broker sites
Make note of all sites exposing your details to pursue removal.
Monitor Credit Reports
Routinely check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion for any suspicious accounts or activity opened in your name. Consider placing a credit freeze if needed.
By thoroughly searching yourself online, you‘ll gain visibility into what data is publicly accessible so you can have it deleted.
Removing Your Information from Google Search
Once you‘ve identified pages with your personal details on them, here are the steps to have them removed from Google Search results:
Submit Removal Request to Google
Fortunately, Google provides a streamlined personal information removal request process:
- Head to their Remove Outdated Content page
- Enter each URL you want removed
- Select the options for "Personal Information" and "Non-consensual explicit or intimate personal images" if applicable
- Explain why the information is problematic
- Click "Request Removal"
Google will review your request and remove search results as warranted under their policies. However, public legal records may not be eligible for removal.
Contact Websites Directly
For pages Google won‘t remove, you‘ll need to contact the sites directly through:
- Email addresses
- Contact forms
- Phone numbers
- Physical mail
Request they remove or update the outdated or inappropriate information themselves per their privacy policies or legal rights like the EU‘s "right to be forgotten".
Adjust Site Privacy Settings
If you have accounts on sites exposing your information, go into your profile and account settings to:
- Make contact details private
- Limit visibility of posts/activity
- Remove personal bio info
- Delete or restrict old posts and photos
Opt-Out of Data Brokers
To get personal info removed from data broker sites, lookup their opt-out process which typically involves submitting ID verification to have your name, address, age, and other data excluded from their databases.
Search Engines Beyond Google
You‘ll also want to repeat the removal process on competing search engines like Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and Yandex to fully eliminate the exposure.
While not always easy, taking the appropriate steps to have your personal information deleted at the source websites and search engines is the most effective way to regain control of your private details.
Complementary Privacy Protection Strategies
In addition to removing your information from Google, here are proactive precautions to further safeguard your privacy:
Use a Password Manager
Tools like LastPass and 1Password generate ultra-secure random passwords for all your online accounts and store them encrypted in a digital vault. This prevents password reuse or leaks exposing your accounts.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Anywhere 2FA options like SMS codes or Google Authenticator are available, enable them for crucial accounts like email, financial, social media, and utilities logins. 2FA requires both your password and a secondary verification code or method.
Routinely Check Credit Reports
Order free annual credit reports from Equifax, Experian and Transunion to check for any fraudulent accounts or activity in your name. Consider freezing your credit to block criminals from opening new accounts.
Use a VPN
Encrypt your web traffic and mask your IP address from sites like Google using a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs add an extra layer of privacy protection over public Wi-Fi.
Leverage Data Deletion Services
Be Careful on Public Networks
Avoid accessing sensitive accounts or data over public Wi-Fi. Assume your activity can be snooped. Instead use your carrier data, the aforementioned VPN, or wait until you are on a private secured network.
Read Privacy Policies
Taking a layered approach across these fronts is the most effective way to protect your privacy in the digital age.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have additional questions about removing personal information from Google Search, here are answers to some common queries:
Why does my personal information show up in Google results?
Google‘s automated web crawlers index and add to search results any personal information publicly available online. Common sources are public records, social media posts, website accounts where you provide details, data brokers compiling dossiers, and hacked/leaked data from breaches. Any info not behind authentication can get indexed by Google.
What kind of personal information can be removed from Google Search?
Google will remove personal information like Social Security numbers, bank account/payment information, signatures, medical records, and confidential identity documents. However, they usually will not remove legal records or government documents.
How long does it take for Google to remove my information?
It typically takes 3 – 5 business days for Google to review personal information removal requests and apply any appropriate changes. However, the process can take longer for complex requests. Following up after 7-10 days is recommended if you have not received confirmation.
Can I speed up Google‘s removal process?
Unfortunately there are no expedited options to accelerate the removal request process. Submitting comprehensive, well-detailed requests and focusing most efforts on contacting sites directly for fastest takedowns is recommended.
Will my info be removed from other search engines too?
No, you need to submit duplicate removal requests to other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo in order to have your personal information excluded from their results as well.
Can I remove my arrest/conviction/court records?
As a rule, Google does not remove legal records or government documents, considering them public information. To remove criminal or court records, you would typically need to pursue formal expungement through the justice system.
What if a site refuses to remove my information?
First ensure requests are going to each website‘s documented abuse contact address. For sites still refusing compliance, formal legal escalation through a cease and desist letter is typically the next step.
Hopefully these common questions provide some clarification around the nuances of getting your personal details removed from Google Search results.
In Closing: Prioritize Your Privacy
In our digital world, controlling your personal information online is crucial for protecting against serious identity theft, financial fraud, cyber stalking, reputation damage and other harms. That‘s why taking action to remove your private details like addresses, contact info, IDs, records and more from Google Search results is so important.
While not always straightforward, with persistence and leveraging available takedown processes, you can effectively eliminate the exposure of your sensitive information through search engines. Pair that with proactive precautions like strong passwords, limited sharing, and VPNs, and you can substantially reduce privacy risks in the digital age.
No one can realistically remove all traces of themselves from the internet entirely. But following the guidance in this article will go a long way to regaining control of your personal data and minimizing unwanted public exposure through Google searches.
Here‘s to taking back your privacy!