There are a lot of great things about living in the age of the internet, but listen. Not everyone likes the idea of random people being able to learn things about their family and lives with a simple Google search.
It can make a person uncomfortable even if they don’t have something to hide, but that said, there are plenty of people out there with extremely legitimate reasons for needing to stay as anonymous as possible.
Whether you just like your privacy or safety is a major concern, everyone should know how to delete themselves from a Google search if they want to, and we’re about to hand over that knowledge right now.
If you’ve got a common name, this process might not be worth your time and effort, but only you know whether or not it’s important enough to you – and if it is, these steps will help you erase around 99% of your digital footprint.
#1. Do a search yourself.
Google yourself first and see what actually comes up.
Open an incognito window using the Chrome browser menu, type your name into the search box surrounded by quotes – your whole name, including your middle name and then without your middle name – and make a list fo what comes up.
If there are things that seem problematic, focus on removing those results first.
#2. Realize there are downsides.
Google searches aren’t the way that corporations store your information, so if you’re concerned about data sharing, you’re going to have to take a hard look at your social media usage and online shopping habits instead.
There will still be plenty of information floating around for data mining; deleting yourself from Google searches will only help thwart future employers, potential stalkers, nosy neighbors, and the like from being able to find you in real life by using the internet.
#3. If you still want to, take the first step.
The first thing you’re going to have to do is to delete your social media accounts, or at the very least, use a fake name online.
You’ll want to make sure you delete even accounts you haven’t used in some time, like MySpace or Reddit, but your self-Google should make it easy to jog your memory.
If you don’t want to delete, keep the apps that allow you to set them to “private,” which at least prevents google from showing your pictures in the search results.
#4. Contact some data collection sites directly.
Data collection and data broker results will look like “click here to get the arrest records for” or “we’ve found the address and phone number for” in your search results.
Those sites allow people to pay to access a person’s phone number, address, court history, etc, and unfortunately, there’s no easy way to get the sites to remove you without contacting them directly.
You can pay services like DeleteMe to do it for you, if you have the cash, and it will save you a ton of time.
#5. Delete comments you’ve made.
If you’ve made comments on website articles, those can come up in a Google search. If you can, just log on to the site and delete your comment.
If you can’t, you’ll have to contact the owner(s) of the site and ask them to remove it for you.
If you can’t find the contact information for the site’s owner, you can use WhoIs.com to find it, but know that the owners aren’t required to delete your comments and may not.
Shoot your shot, though! There are still some people out there who aren’t complete jerks just because they can be.
#6. Remove photos or article mentions.
If there are photos of you posted by someone else, or articles that mention your name, you will once again be relying on the kindness of the person who put them up to take them down.
Google might be willing to help – you can contact them and request the information be removed on their end, and if the mention or image is inappropriate, you can try using the Report Inappropriate Content Tool to speed up the process.
#7. Hide your home on Google Maps.
If people know your address (or pay to get it) they’ll be able to see your home on Google Maps (or even street view), but Google makes it fairly simple to request that your house be blurred out through this service.
Go to Google Maps, search your address, and click on your home’s photo.
A black box should appear with your address, and there’s a menu that includes Report a Problem.
Fill out the form and submit, but know that you can’t undo this action.
#8. Hide anything you can’t get removed.
If Google and/or site owners aren’t willing to help you remove something you’d rather not be easily found, you can force those embarrassing results onto a second page.
Update your information on as many sites as you can, join new ones, start a personal blog or webpage, etc – more recent information should show up first, which would push the things you don’t want found down lower on the list of results.
There you have it, my friends. Not simple, exactly, but doable if you’re committed.
If you decide to disappear from the internet, well, it was nice knowing you – be safe out there!