Posted on June 30, 2022 by
A new Google feature allows users to remove personal information from Google search results. All it takes is a little research and a few minutes to complete an online form.
You may find it difficult to imagine, but, thanks to the Dark Web, any skilled user can buy or discover anything about anyone. Credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, bank account logins, Netflix accounts, birthdates, even health records. Not-very-nice-people can find out anything with a few clicks and the touch of a button.
Do you publish family details on Facebook or a family website? You’re vulnerable.
Did you author a paper that lives somewhere on the internet? Google could publish the author’s information associated with that publication.
Have you exchanged sensitive personal information through an instant messaging service? Those details could very well be in the possession of a hacker.
Sometimes, website owners don’t understand that what they publish could put someone in peril. They’ve innocently published information they thought would be a benefit to their visitors.
Google calls this information Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
Thanks to this new Google policy, internet users now have another tool in their arsenal to help them protect their PII.
Google announced in early May 2022 that it created a process to remove their personal information from Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Google and other search engines have provided users in the European Union ways to remove personal information from Google to meet rules outlined in the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that took effect in 2018. Now the tech giant has made this option available to users worldwide with a new search results removal request feature.
This policy follows other processes Google has implemented to help protect internet users’ personal information.
Previously, Google offered removal of PII from its search results if the petitioner showed the release of the details could pose a health or safety risk or if the information was used for “doxxing.”
Doxxing happens when someone publishes another person’s information maliciously.
And about six months ago, Google developed a process for minors and their guardians to request removal of minors’ images from the web to protect their safety.
This new policy significantly lowers the bar for what Google deems a viable removal request, as petitioners under the new process don’t need to show any reason for their requests.
The first step is to find websites that have published your personal information. Then perform a Google search to show that your details appear on a SERP. You will need the URL for both the actual site and the Google search results page. You will also need screenshots showing that your information appears on the website and the SERP.
Next, visit the Request to Remove Personal Information on Google page and start completing the form. As you click on answers, selections for the next question appear, leading you through the process.
The following screenshots show how the form looks as you complete it.
Step One: Typically, you’ll be asking for the removal of personal information you’ve already seen on a Google SERP. See Figure 1.
Step Two: Choose the statement that best fits your situation. See Figure 2.
Step Three: You need to remember that your request to remove personal information from Google will only focus on what appears on search results pages. The information will still be available on individual websites. To request a website remove your PII, you’ll need to contact the owner/webmaster of each site. Google offers tips on how to make these requests. For now, just click on “No, I prefer not to.” See Figure 3.
Step Four: Next, you will need to identify the information you would like removed. See Figure 4.
Step Five: If you choose “Personal Information,” this is the screen you’ll see next. Each answer choice gives examples of the personal information you can ask to be removed. Click the one that best describes your situation. See Figure 5.
NOTE: You can use the same removal request form for different PII as long as they all fit within the category that you chose in Steps 4 and 5.
Say one website has published an image of your signature and another has published your login information for your bank account. Those both fall under the PII category, and you can use the same form.
But if you request the removal of a compromising photograph as well as the settlement you made during a court case, you’ll need to use two separate forms.
Google has Help Articles that explain each type of information you can target for Google removal. Review the list below to ensure your request to remove information from Google is accurate:
Step Six: Complete the rest of the form by answering questions, including URLs for the websites and search results to which you are referring, and attaching screenshots showing the information you’d like removed.
You can list up to 1,000 websites in your request to remove information from Google if the information on each of the sites falls within the same category. Google requires a separate request for each type of information (See our note above).
When you include the URLs for the SERPs you are targeting, you’ll need to include the search terms you used to get to that SERP. Each term should be on a separate line. You can include up to 10,000 terms or lines.
Here’s a quick tip: Save a copy of your form either by printing it, saving it as a PDF or taking a screenshot before you submit it. This might be the only place you’ll have this list of the websites that have published your PII. You’ll want this list so you can run the same search request to verify that your PII has been removed from the SERP.
And remember, this process only removes your information from Google search results. You’ll still want to go back and contact each website’s webmaster to request removal of your information from the website itself.
Here’s an explanation from Google:
“Google Search shows information gathered from websites across the web. Even if we remove content from Google Search, it may still exist on the web. This means someone might still find the content on the page that hosts it, through social media, on other search engines, or other ways. Therefore, you may wish to contact the site’s webmaster and ask them to remove the content.”
After you hit “Submit,” the process drops into Google’s lap. You should get an email that confirms your request along with a link to check on your request status. Decisions usually come within days. If you have problems or questions, you can contact Google through the link they provide in your confirmation email.
Google has a separate form for requests to remove outdated or incorrect information that continue to appear on search results pages.
There are a few cases where Google may deny your removal request. Google calls some information “broadly useful” or part of a public record and is readily available through government, court or other official records. If Google says your information falls into one of those categories, your request will probably be denied.
If you uncover new information, you can resubmit your request.
Search engines have argued that restricting information available on their results pages flies in the face of what search is all about. But it appears that when they weigh the public’s “right to know” against an individual’s “right to privacy,” the latter is more important.
Here at Roaring Pajamas, we specialize in helping your business get found. But we’re also your strongest allies when it comes to protecting your personal information. And even though it seems simple to complete all the steps for Google removal of your PII, are you ready to invest all that time into the process? Contact us today to find out how Roaring Pajamas can help you remove your personal information from Google while still promoting your business and increasing your revenue.