You search your name on Google, to see what other people will see when they search for you.  The first few results are not very exciting.  Most of the results aren’t even you, just someone with a similar name.

However, you click on the images tab on the Google search and you find embarrassing photos for all of the worlds to see.  Panic sets in and you wonder what you can do! You feel helpless and ashamed that such images show up in the search.

You may also, from time to time, check the google results related to your business or profession.  Your own business website may appear, or the typical review sites.  But you may also one day notice images that are very unprofessional or even consist of outright false information about your company.

Afraid this may lead to your professional reputation being ruined and a loss of your customer base? Then you need to act quickly to stop the damage before it’s too late.

Fortunately, following these three steps will help eliminate those images from the web and help save you from embarrassment or financial ruin!

Step One – Remove Images That You Control

The first step in removing images from Google is to go through all of the images you control.  You may be the one that posted the image to social media or a webpage through your own account.

Simply:

1. log in to your account;

2. find the image; and, either,

3. make the image private; or

4. delete it from the website.

Sometimes, you may need to contact the owner of the social media site to have the image deleted completely.

  • Facebook/Instagram: Large social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram have customer and technical support help-lines and chats to help you with the removal of photos if you are unable to remove them yourself.
  • Old Profiles: If the image is on an old profile or account that you do not have access to anymore, you may need to do an account recovery or password reset in order to access the image.  Some social media sites have options to connect certain images to your name or profile, which in turn will result in Google publishing the image when your name is searched.  Disconnecting the photo from your name or profile may help to keep the image from appearing in the Google search.
  • Posts by Friends/Family: Sometimes, friends and family may have posted your image without you even knowing. Contacting them to remove the image may be necessary in order to have the image removed from the google search.  If someone you know has posted the image of you and it is appearing in Google searches, you can ask them to go into their account and remove the image.

Deleting your own images or having friends and family delete an image may not immediately remove the image from the Google search.  

However, Google often updates its search data. So, after some time, the image should disappear from the search connected to your name.

If you have removed the image and it continues to appear in Google search, you may need to contact the website that is hosting the image and find out why the image still continues to exist.

A copy of the image may have been downloaded onto another website, or possibly, another social media account may have posted the image.  If this is the case, you will need to continue to step two, for images that you do not control.

Step Two – Remove Images You Do Not Control

Sometimes the embarrassing image you want to be removed from the Google search is not under your control.  Instead, the photo is published by a person or website you have never even spoken to!

If this is the case, you will need to find the owner of the website that is posting the embarrassing image and request that they remove the image.

If you see an embarrassing image on Google, you can click on the image or the hyperlink directly below the image to take you to the location of the image on the internet, outside of Google.

It is important to find the exact location of the image so that you can determine what person or company needs to be contacted to request the removal.

  • Contact the entity directly: Some websites will have contact information posted somewhere on their website. It may be listed as a tab that says “contact us” or “contact information.”  Clicking these links often leads to an email address or direct message function, where you can request that the image be removed.  Be sure to tell the owner exactly which image you would like to remove.  You may need to repeat this step multiple times if the image is posted on various websites or in various locations across the internet.
  • Contacting Google: In certain circumstances, you can request directly through Google to remove your image from their search function.  Google has a policy of not hosting images that may be of an explicit nature of a person made without their consent.  They also have a policy of not posting images that are illegal or contain sensitive personal information, such as social security numbers, health data, or certain financial information.

When you contact Google directly, make sure you are ready to explain the reason why Google should remove your images and exactly which images should be removed.

What Will You Need?

You will need to state your case for why the image does not comply with Google community guidelines, terms & conditions, additional policies, or why the image is illegal.

Google will not automatically remove images from their search function by request and will in fact deny requests if they deem the image is appropriate and public record.

Step Three – Get Outside Help

Unfortunately, not all websites are responsive or cooperative to requests to take down images.  You may not be able to find the owner of the website or ever make contact with the person or company that has the ability to take down the image.

Even more troubling, sometimes your request does make it to the owner of the website, who refuses to remove the image or even demands payment to take down the image.

Extortion? 

An unfortunate trend on the internet, which borders on legality (often more on the side of illegal), is the practice of posting embarrassing images of people and charging a “fee” for their removal.

Mugshots are a common image that these websites will post, often under the guise of public records and community safety information.  When asked to remove the image, these websites will demand a fee for doing so.

Other websites have done similar practices, but instead post nude or sexual images of a person, with removal coming at a price.  These practices have often been cited as illegal and even possibly criminal.

If you are the victim of such a website and want the offending images taken down from Google search or the hosting website, you may need to immediately obtain outside help.

What Can You Do?

If this is the case, you may need the assistance of a specialist for reputation management or even possibly legal help to protect your privacy rights.

Reputation management specialists can do a deep dive into website ownership through website server companies or corporate filings.  They also can come up with strategies that may help eliminate certain images from being associated with your name is searched on Google.

Reputation management services for businesses may help to continuously monitor Google images to ensure removed offensive images do not reappear.  These services may also be necessary for an individual that relies on their reputation.

If all of these steps fail you may need to speak to legal counsel that has expertise in the laws of privacy and the internet.  A law firm with the proper experience will be able to advise you as to what legal protections may be available to your situation in order to remove certain images from Google and any other website the image is hosted on.

A lawyer may need to send a cease and desist letter to the owner of a website or even possibly file a lawsuit against them.  A court order may be necessary to force the removal of an image from Google, however, only a legal expert will be able to determine whether you have the legal grounds to force such a removal.

Takeaway:

Whether you want images removed from Google due to embarrassment, personal security, professional reputation, or just because you don’t like the image being associated with you, the above steps will help you achieve your goals.

First and foremost, removing the images you control is the easiest way to remove an offending image from Google.  If you do not have control of the image, finding the entity that does control it and requesting removal may also help you achieve your goal.

Lastly, getting help from a professional, while potentially costly and time-consuming, can ensure that you have taken every possible step to remove an image from Google.

Fortunately, many services are available, especially when you need to enforce legal protections to keep embarrassing or damaging images from appearing in Google searches.

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