Google is useful for many parts of our lives. Still, it can also be problematic, especially since it makes it so simple for anyone to find personal information about us. It leaves you feeling vulnerable, we understand. Or, even if you’re here because you value your privacy on principle, we’re here to help you understand how to remove your personal information from the data giant’s platforms.
What is Personally Identifiable Information?
Personally identifiable information, or PII for short, is often used interchangeably with the term “personal information.” But what does this mean for you, and why would you want this information removed from Google and the internet? PII is not just information about you, like what you’re like as a person, your emotions, your likes and dislikes, etc. It’s a lot more than that. PII, in fact, is powerful information and can be dangerous if it gets into the wrong hands.
PII can be defined as any information that allows a person’s identity to be inferred – either directly or indirectly. Direct PII, or sensitive PII, includes (but is not limited to) information like your Social Security number, financial or medical records, biometrics, criminal record, driver’s license information, and so on. Giving out your Social Security number to just anyone, for example, is a huge no-no and something that you should have been taught about since you were little. These pieces of information are directly related to you and your legal identity as a citizen and can be stolen. We’ve all heard about identity theft by now, a crime that’s been rising dramatically in the last few years. This is mainly because so much of our personal information can be found online. When that information is compromised, as in the case of a data breach, it can be used by bad actors to steal your identity and use it with criminal intent.
Non-direct PII includes other information about you that tends to place you into a category. Such information includes demographic information, like your date of birth (which could fall under direct PII, too), place of birth, race and religion, gender, and so on. Often, if bad actors get hold of this information in conjunction with your direct PII, it becomes much easier to create a complete profile of you to perform identity theft.
Perhaps your mind has started wandering a little while reading this. You’re probably thinking about all the sites that know these little bits of information about you. Who has the whole picture? If anyone looks you up, will they be able to find your sensitive PII online? If so, how easily could they find it? Either way, you’re asking yourself, “How to remove my personal information from Google?” Read on to find out how this can be done.
What Personal Information Can I Remove from Google?
If you submit a removal request with Google, they can remove some aspects of your personal information, but they can’t remove everything. Not everyone understands, but Google doesn’t actually own the entire internet, so they don’t dominate everything.
Still, they will endeavor to remove both direct and indirect PII from where possible. Google will remove bank account numbers, images of your signature, your credit card details, and even explicit images of you, as well as other sensitive material from showing up on their search engine or any of their platforms. Of course, if they make a point of removing the above-mentioned information, they’ll also remove Social Security numbers, confidential medical records, passport numbers, and even tax identifiers. This information will be removed if they were shared without your permission. Submit a legal request to Google here.
How Do I Remove Public Records from Google?
This differs when it comes to public records. So, your information like telephone numbers, date of birth, and even addresses, will likely not be removed from Google. The same goes for any information about you that can be found on a government website. For the most part, if the information is publicly accessible on a government website, there’s no reason for Google to have it removed from their platforms.
But if your publicly available information is found on another website – not a government one – you’d have to deal with it on that particular website. If you created a profile on a site and put up PII that includes public record information, log on and remove that information yourself. However, there are some websites that your information may have popped up, and you didn’t put it there yourself. In that case, you’d have to contact the webmaster or site owner yourself and request that they take that information down.
Remove Yourself from Data Collection Sites
Data collection sites, including people finder (or people search) websites, collect your information. They tend to collect whatever they can access from databases of publicly available information. Remember all the indirect PII that we mentioned earlier in this article? Data collection sites could easily have all this information about you. Additionally, they might also have any social media account linked to your email address or phone number, giving anyone access to your online profiles.
It can be a headache to request the removal of your information from these sites – there are more than 100 of them – and your information might get picked up by them a few months later anyway. A good option would be to invest in a service that does this for you and keeps checking where your PII turns up online. Removing your info from these sites would mean that it doesn’t turn up in Google search results.
Hide Where You Live
As much as Google Maps and Street View make our lives a lot easier, Street View can jeopardize the safety of your home. If someone knows your address, they could stake out your home without even being around. You can ask Google to hide your house from view by blurring its image. Do this by opening Google Maps or Street View, then look up your address. Find your home on Street View, then click “Report a problem” in the bottom right of the screen. Once you complete the form, hit “Submit,” and Google will blur the image of your home. Remember, this can’t be reversed.