How to Remove Your Name from Google Search for Free
On April 27, 2022, Alphabet announced a long-awaited feature allowing people to remove personal information from Google’s search results. Alphabet has lowered the bar for having results removed from its Google Search product—good news if you value your privacy.
It’s not all good news, though. Submitting a removal request isn’t the quickest or easiest process. Plus, not every piece of your personal information that shows up on Google is eligible for removal, and there are no strict eligibility criteria—each removal request is evaluated by Google.
Why might I want to remove personal information from Google?
There are many good reasons to remove personal information from Google’s search results. A quick search for your name might bring up contact details that you’d rather keep private. A website might be sharing documents or information that someone could use to defraud or impersonate you.
Personal information like this can be used to discriminate against you, harass you, attempt to scam you, stalk you, or even steal your identity. If you’re active online under a pseudonym, your personal information can be used to dox you, revealing your real identity.
What can be removed with the new Google removal tool
Since the 27th of April, you can submit a request to remove “select personally identifiable information (PII) or doxxing content” from Google’s search results. Only information that “creates significant risks of identity theft, financial fraud, or other specific harms” is eligible, though.
This could include content that could bring reputational harm, like explicit images and videos or Deepfake pornography. What Google calls “irrelevant pornography” is also included: pornography not featuring you but with which your name is somehow associated.
The personally identifiable information that may be removed on request includes:
- Contact information
- Government-issued ID numbers (like Social Security Numbers)
- Bank accounts and credit card numbers
- Handwritten signatures and images of ID documents
- Restricted, official records, like medical documents
- Confidential login credentials
How to remove my name from Google Search for free?
Go to this support page. Scroll down halfway and click on “start removal request.”
2) Click on the edit icon to the right of “what do you want to do?”
Click on the edit icon to the right of “what do you want to do?”
3) Select “remove information you see in Google Search.
Select “remove information you see in Google Search.
4) Select where you found the information that you want to be removed
Click on the edit icon to the right of “the information I want removed is:”.
Select “in Google’s search results and on a website.”
5) Indicate whether or not you’ve contacted the site’s owner
Under “have you contacted the site’s website owner?”, select “no, I prefer not to.”
6) Choose what content you want to remove
Under “I want to remove”, select “personal info, like ID numbers and private documents.”
7) Choose the personal information you want to remove from Google Search.
A list of types of personal information will appear. Choose the personal information you want to remove from Google Search.
TIP: Include only personal information you’ve actually found in the Google Search results, you’ll be asked for URLs and screenshots in the next step.
8) Fill in and submit the removal request form
Place a check next to “yes, the offending content is live on the website” and proceed to fill in the rest of the removal request form.
Once you’ve finished pasting in your URLs, typing in your search terms, and uploading representative screenshots, check the declaration at the bottom of the form and click “submit.”
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The limitations to removing your personal information from Google
As Michelle Chang, Google’s Global Policy Lead for Search, explains in her blog post, there are limitations on what personal information Google is willing to remove from its search results.
The tech giant won’t remove personal information if it deems doing so would limit “the availability of other information that is broadly useful, for instance in news articles.” Google also won’t remove information that appears as part of the public record on government or other official websites.
The biggest disappointment people are likely to feel with the Google removal process comes from a misunderstanding of what the Google removal tool can and can’t do. It removes your personal information from the search results, but can’t affect the sites that have your information.
Something else to keep in mind is the fact that Google Search is just one of many search engines out there. Google absolutely dominates the market, but its questionable business practices have led to the rise of alternative search engines.
When you remove personal information from Google, you leave most other search engines untouched. The only exceptions here are search engines that draw their results from Google Search, like the more privacy-respecting StartPage.com. Something like DuckDuckGo.com will be unaffected.
The only way to get your personal data off every search engine is to have it deleted at the source—more on this below.
What else can I do? How can I clear my name from Google?
First of all, it may not be possible to completely clear your name from Google’s search results. The company has already said that it won’t remove search results for public records, so unless you can get a public record suppressed, it’ll continue to appear in the search results.
There is a lot you can do to limit how much of your personal data appears on Google Search, though. Search for your name on Google and you’ll find that most of the hits are to social media platforms and people search sites.
Google constantly crawls the web, frequently updating its search results. Delete your social media accounts and the related search results will disappear soon after. Not only will your social media profiles disappear from Google’s search results, but all other search engines as well.
If you don’t feel ready to delete your social media profiles, you can try setting them to “private” instead. Changing your profile names from your real name to pseudonyms may also help, as would deleting any personal information like your date of birth and contact details.
This should leave mainly people search sites in your Google search results. Go to each site that has a report or listing on you. You don’t need to be able to see your record if it’s behind a paywall and you don’t need to join or subscribe to any of these sites.
People search sites are data brokers that specialize in people search, reverse phone, and reverse address searches. They’re bound by data privacy protection laws like California’s CCPA, Colorado’s CPA, and Virginia’s CDPA.
This means that if a resident of a state with data protection legislation in place requests the removal of their personal data, the data broker has to comply. Most data brokers will comply even if your state doesn’t have laws like this on the books.
So look for an “opt out” or “do not sell my info” link on each people search site that showed up on Google when you searched for your name. Follow the opt-out or data removal procedure for each one to cut those search results off at the source, for Google and all other search engines.
Incogni has detailed, step-by-step guides to help you remove your data from some of the largest people search sites in the industry. These guides will make opting out easy, but be warned: to get your personal information off all of them can take hours.
Incogni’s researchers estimate that sending opt-out requests to all data brokers that are likely to have your personal information takes 304 hours on average. And that’s just one pass. Listings on data broker sites, including people search sites, have a tendency to reappear over time. So you’d need to repeat the opt-out process regularly to keep your data off these sites.
To really put a spanner in the works of data brokers that deal in your personal data, try a subscription to Incogni’s automated data removal tool. It’ll send out dozens of opt-out requests at a time. It’ll also perform regular sweeps of these data brokers to ensure your data stays out of their hands.