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If you’ve ever asked the question, “can I remove myself from search engines?” this step-by-step guide will show you how.
How do you remove yourself from search results? Is it even possible? For anyone that has asked the question: “how do I remove myself from search engines?” this is the place to find out!
Here, we go over some proven tips on how to erase your presence from the major internet search engines, making you virtually invisible and untraceable to anyone you don’t want to find you. So if you would like to adopt a low profile or remain incognito for whatever reason, even if you just want to enhance your online privacy, read on for some highly effective suggestions!
Why would you want to remove your name or brand from Google search results? There are many valid reasons to do so, including the following:
All these are legitimate reasons to want to erase all mentions of your name from Google and other search engines. But perhaps the most compelling reasons to do so are to protect your personal information and avoid being victimized by identity theft and data breaches.
When personal and financial information falls into the wrong hands, the consequences can be devastating. Cybercriminals could make purchases in your name, deplete your bank account, and access your most private account information.
It’s even worse when you become the victim of identity theft. Cybercriminals can assume your identity, perform high-value transactions in your name, and gain access to your personal contacts. In some cases, the damage can take years to rectify.
Search engines are among the most widely-used tools nowadays. Almost everyone who uses the internet uses some search engine or another, often several times a day. In fact, you likely chanced upon this article you are now reading after searching on a search engine like Google.
But the very qualities that make search engines so useful ‒ power, accessibility, and zero cost ‒ also make it easy to obtain personal info on almost anyone. Suppose you haven’t taken steps to protect your online account privacy or use a virtual private network. In that case, it is probably extremely easy to find your personal information with a few clicks of a mouse button.
This isn’t an issue for most people, including those with nothing to hide. But even if you use a VPN service, keeping your personal information private and preventing it from falling into the wrong hands is good practice.
Consider the implications of having your personal information so readily available. Cybercriminals can hack into your email account and contact anyone you’ve sent or received emails from. They can search for you on Google and gather even more information about you.
That’s not all. They could even find you on Google maps, find old mugshots, dig up your search history or your YouTube history, study your social media channels and copy your speech patterns, online mannerisms, and how you post online. Digging into your background and investigating your connections makes it relatively easy to formulate an accurate profile of you.
This is where it gets really bad. After establishing a reasonable facsimile of your profile, they can impersonate you via email or social media. They can reach out to your contacts that they’ve previously gathered and pretend to be you.
The messages don’t even have to come from your personal email or social media accounts. As long as they have your profile picture and public records, they can copy your online persona and easily fool your friends and family members.
At that point, it’s a trivial matter to send out malware and phishing links to steal even more data and personal information. And because the links appear to be coming from you, your contacts won’t be any the wiser.
Ultimately, all your contacts will be at risk, all because of your personal information was so easy to find. But you can prevent this from happening by taking a few simple precautions and most importantly, removing your name from the major search engines!
How do you remove your name from the major search engines? Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as clicking an “opt-out” link. Furthermore, every search engine has a different method for erasing your presence. And in most cases, you will probably have to reach out to the websites that show your name on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
But fear not. Removing most mentions of your name from the different search engines is doable if you put in the time and effort.
Keep in mind that it is virtually impossible to eradicate all traces of your online presence from search engines. But the steps described here will at least minimize your digital footprint, reduce the ‘breadcrumbs’ that lead back to you, and make it more difficult for anyone to find you online.
Here’s how to do it:
Securing your social media accounts mostly involves setting them to “private,” which limits other people’s ability to access the information associated with these online accounts. For purposes of securing your personal data, this is the next best thing to deleting them entirely, which is a pretty drastic approach!
As you may have probably noticed, search engines place a high premium on social media content. All the major search engines tend to rank social media sites higher than all the other sites. This means that anyone searching for your name or photo will likely see your social media account on the first page of the SERPs.
The most effective solution to prevent this is to “privatize” your accounts on any social media platforms you still use, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter. While you’re at it, dig up your old accounts on Tumblr, Google+, and MySpace as well.
Don’t forget to search for accounts on photo-sharing services you no longer use. It would probably be best to delete your accounts on these services permanently if you no longer use them. This solution will go a long way toward enhancing your online privacy.
You can also tighten up your privacy settings even more by setting your posts to be viewable to “friends only.”
Like many other social media platforms, Twitter tends to rank highly in the major search engines. Consequently, any tweets you make with your real name ‒ and even those that mention you by name ‒ will probably appear on the first page of the SERPs.
You can avoid this by setting your Twitter account to private in your privacy preferences. This makes your tweets private and only makes them viewable to people you allow to follow you. Here’s how to do it:
The process for making your Instagram account private is similar:
Forum posts, blog comments, and product reviews have a way of accumulating over the years. Most people think nothing of dropping a few words here and there, whether in response to a blog comment or to share positive‒or negative‒opinions about a product or service.
But all these words represent digital ‘breadcrumbs’ that provide some insight into your purchasing habits, manner of speech, and online behavior. And all of these could lead back to you or form the basis of a fake profile that cybercriminals could fabricate to impersonate you.
What makes these breadcrumbs even more dangerous is that they remain online for years‒decades, even. Do a quick search for one of your old user names and a particular forum and you would be surprised at how far back you can go.
So how do you get rid of your past posts, comments, reviews, and other data? Unfortunately, the only way to do so is by deep scanning the SERPs and deleting each instance manually. It’s much more time-consuming than an opt-out process and will take more than a few hours, but it can be done.
The process is slightly more complicated for unused accounts or posts on websites and other services in which you have no control. For such posts, you will have to communicate with each individual site owner directly. Most will be glad to accommodate your request to take down the post.
In some cases, your private information could appear on the SERPs without your knowledge or doing. This is a bit more difficult to rectify and probably requires communicating directly with Google.
Google will actually remove publicly available information if you want to get rid of it. But this isn’t commonly done, and you will have to provide proof that the information points back to you and that its existence is damaging or detrimental.
Google will be more likely to accommodate your request if the information truly poses a risk to you, such as your Social Security or bank account number. However, you will still have to submit a formal legal request before the company takes action.
Keep in mind that this solution won’t help you get rid of unsavory information about you on search engines. Google won’t accommodate personal requests of that nature, so use this method only to remove sensitive personal or financial information.
Data brokers and data collection agencies are some of the biggest culprits in spreading personal information on the internet. Of course, social media, “free” apps, and app-based games play their part as well.
The thing about “free” games and apps is they aren’t really “free.” As with most products or services that are offered at seemingly no cost, the customer is actually the product. In exchange for the use of these apps, you are “paying” the creator with your personal data and information. From there, it’s only a matter of time before that information becomes public interest on the internet.
What type of information do you give up to data broker services? For starters, you give them access to your:
People search websites are equally at fault when it comes to sharing data and personal information. Sites such as Intelius.com, MyLife.com, PeopleFinders.com, Spokeo.com, and Whitepages.com actively share data as part of their operations.
These “services” purchase personal information that they later post publicly with free accounts. Although some people search sites offer a paid service for certain accounts, the associated information still appears in the search engines.
Some of the biggest data brokers aggregate personal information from different sources. They then create profiles and make them available to marketers, government agencies, and other organizations.
Deleting your information from these sites can be even more challenging than removing them from Google. Many don’t have contact pages, and you typically have to search through these sites and request that your information be deleted individually. This can be very time-consuming, often taking 60 days or more.
Here’s how to remove yourself from WhitePages.com:
Do you have one or more e-commerce accounts? You might be surprised to find out that the information on them is publicly available.
Take Amazon, for example. If you’ve created a “Wish List” with the site, it is accessible to anyone on the internet by default. If you want to keep it from view, you will have to set your list to “private” to prevent Google from indexing them.
Some e-commerce sites don’t even allow you to set your information to “private” in your account preferences. If that is the case, consider closing your account and shifting to a company that allows you to control the privacy of your information.
Remember that any information associated with your profile can be used by data brokers if it is publicly viewable. If they can’t readily access your data, you lose your value as a marketable commodity and reduce the chances of having your information fall into the wrong hands.
Even old and unused email accounts can put you at risk for unauthorized data access and identity theft. Prevent cybercriminals from accessing your email history and contact list by getting rid of email addresses you no longer use.
After you delete your email address, any messages sent to it will bounce back to the sender. The address will then eventually be scrubbed from the databases of the email services provider, so you have one less source of potentially damaging information to worry about.
The removal process for personal information from the internet would be a lot easier if you didn’t have to search for each instance one by one to permanently delete them. Most people faced with the prospect of having to track down each and every source simply give up.
One thing that adds considerably to the challenge is data brokers’ use of interfaces that scrape the web for data from various sources, including social media, public records, and corporate files. Users then end up having online profiles in their name even without giving their explicit consent.
You can speed up the process of clearing up traces of your online information by hiring a privacy protection service. These companies specialize in the removal of information that you would rather keep private.
These firms handle all the necessary opt-out requests and even follow up with the site owner of each company that has your information. The most effective companies have extensive databases of websites, making it possible to have your data removed from most public listings.
You could also request Google to remove any of your information associated with outdated internet search results. There are many instances wherein Google searches show information from web pages that have long been changed or updated, even if the data is no longer on the site.
Getting rid of this information requires submitting the URL of the content in question to Google’s “remove outdated content” tool. You will usually have to wait 10 to 15 days before the specific URLs are removed.
There are cases wherein Google deems your outdated content ineligible for removal. If that is the case, your best option would be to bury the content you want to hide with more recent or positive content.
Understand that this method doesn’t remove the offending content from the internet. But it will push it further back to the other pages in the search results and make it a bit harder to find.
There are many reasons why you may want to do this, apart from deemphasizing outdated content. If you have any personal information or past history that you want to conceal from potential employers, for example, pushing it back a few pages makes it less likely to be seen.
The goal here is to “bury” the offending content with new content that has a high likelihood of ranking on the first page of the search engine results. You can do this by setting up new social media accounts or creating a new personal blog or website.
You could also write guest blog posts for website owners of reputable sites or issue press releases in your name. By posting these on high “domain authority” sites, Google will likely rank them higher than the old content.
If there is one lesson you should learn from all this is that information that becomes public will likely remain public forever. That is the unfortunate reality that we all have to deal with in this digital age.
Despite the many benefits offered by the internet, one of its major drawbacks is the extreme difficulty in removing information once it appears online. For this reason, you should be careful about anything that you allow onto the public sphere.
The good news is that following this guide will enable you to remove mentions of your name, company, or brand from the major internet search engines. You may not be able to completely go incognito, but you will surely make it that much harder for would-be hackers to find you. And when it comes to preventing identity theft and ensuring your data’s privacy, every little bit of improvement you can make counts for a lot.