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How Do I Remove a Google Review?

By BlogNo Comments

In the world of business, word of mouth is different than it used to be. Where business cards and coffee shop conversations once ruled the world of reviews, now the internet is the first place most people go to learn about a company before they will even entertain the idea of using its goods or services.

While virtually everyone uses the information Google reviews provide, far fewer people actually leave reviews. In fact, studies have shown that people are twice as likely to leave a review for a negative experience as they are for a positive one.

Think about going out to dinner. If your meal was timely, your drink stayed filled, and the place was clean you will probably pay your tab and leave with just a mental note that the place is good, and you could stop there again. It probably will not cross your mind to leave a review.

Now think about the same dinner if the wait staff was rude, your food was cold, and a bug crawled across your table—people need to know to stay away! You are much more likely to leave a review.

Content Matters

If a negative review is over the top, using foul language, or has clearly unreasonable demands, the consumer is likely to ignore it and move on, but if there is a seemingly reasonable complaint and it is voiced repeatedly… it may have merit.

For the consumer, this just means weighing the voice of Google with a grain of salt. If there are a handful of reviews and only a couple is negative, likely the company is fine, and the person is the problem. However, if there are mostly negative reviews, the consumer will probably scroll to the nearest competitor. The review may have helped them dodge a bullet.

But what if you are the business with a negative review? If you helped one hundred people today and your one problem client is the one that picked up his phone and went to google, that is not a good look at your company. These one-sided evaluations of your business can be harmful to your reputation and can cost you real money. Thankfully, there are ways to remove unfair Google reviews and repair your reputation.

What is a Google Review? Why is it important?

Google does “everywhere” best. That is what it is known for. Google reviews attach to every facet of your business within the search engine. If a client is looking for your address, they will type in your company name and instantly be provided with a snapshot of not only the information for which they were looking but also your star rating and a clip of your reviews that they can click into.

In just a few steps, they are looking at reviews, they may not have ever wanted, and if the snapshot is not good, your relationship may be tainted before it truly starts. The entire Google suite of applications, including Google maps, is embedded to provide your reviews along with your name. Keeping these reviews positive is essential to your business.

How Do I Get Rid of the Negative?

The good news is—you can get rid of unfair reviews on your business. The bad news is that it is not always simple to do so. For the sake of a fair market, Google reviews can not be deleted. The primary way to get rid of an unwanted review is to flag it as inappropriate. The steps to begin this process are:

  1. Find the review on your company that you would like to be removed
  2. In the upper righthand corner of the review, click on the three dots
  3. Click “Flag as Inappropriate”
  4. Select the reason you want to file your removal under (Fake review, conflict of interest, off-topic,      contains spam, etc.)
  5. Click Submit to Google

The reason for removal will be what decides if it will actually get taken down. There are four main choices you are given for removal, and they are broad so they can be applied in a few ways. First, if the post contains any kind of foul language, hate speech, inappropriate wording, threats, or violence you can have it removed. This choice is cut and dry because the words themselves will prove that the review is inappropriate. Advertising and spam are similarly easy to prove. If your review drags down your company and ends with a call to “CLICK HERE” or a number to a competitor, it is a safe bet that you can have it removed for advertisement.

The last two, conflict of interest and off-topic, are more open to interpretation. Conflict of interest is an option if you suspect the reviewer’s intent has little to do with your service and more to do with doing damage to your company. If you can prove that the review is bogus, it can be removed. Similarly, if the review is clearly negative about a service or good that you do not offer, you may have grounds for removal.

Will All Submissions Get Removed?

Unfortunately for your business, after you hit submit, everything that happens next is in the hands and on the timeline of Google. Google will not remove every review to which you object. They want customers to be informed of negative experiences, so if there is not a legitimate objection in their eyes, the review will stand. Also, it will take time for an objection to process and still more time if they decide to remove it. It is worth the effort but be patient because it could take a while.

Do I Have Other Options?

You always have a few other options as well, and occasionally they may work better than flagging the review. These require a little more leg work on your part but could save your business money in the long run. If customer service is not your best work, give this job to the most personable employee in the office. You will want a customer service genius handling your reviews; they are that important.

Respond to the Review: If there is more to the story, let the people know! You have the ability to respond to the review but do so as if you are speaking to every client you hope to have in the future. Stay professional, own the issue, apologize if a mistake was made. Defend yourself if you feel you have been misrepresented in the review but never attack or belittle the reviewer. Your response could not only save that client but save future clients who will be impressed by how you handled yourself.

Ask the Reviewer to Take it Down: Do not be shy. Reach out to the unhappy reviewer if you feel like you can make them happy. It may be worth offering a discount or perk to them to make up for their experience. Think of this as a restaurant giving you a free appetizer for your trouble. You can apologize in almost every situation, even if it is just apologizing that the person felt that way. If the client is won over by your efforts in either gesture or your response to their review, do not hesitate to reach out and ask them to remove the negative review or update it to a positive review. Many reviewers want action to be taken to remedy what made them unhappy. Some reviewers just want to vent. The ones you can win over are worth the time and effort of dealing with the ones you may never get through to.

Incentivize Good Reviews: You have responded, you have made offers, you have flagged the review, but there it stands. You have done all that you can to have it removed, but it will not go away. That is okay! One bad review will not sink the ship, but it is important that your good reviews make its impact smaller. When you see a client in the office the very first time, make a point to offer an incentive if they leave you a review. Car dealerships employ this technique often, offering a free tank of gas for each review some other incentive. Make sure the client feels appreciated in all that they do, including helping out your rating.

One last thing…

Smooth customer service will save you from the hassle of flagging bad reviews a lot of the time. It is quicker and often more effective to reach out to the source and deal directly with the disgruntled client than wait on Google to take care of it. Make it all business professional and keep a cool head, and you may be able to fix a bad review and save a client all at the same time. In the end, one review is not going to make or break you, but the customer service you provide very well could.

How Do I Delete Myself from Google & the Internet?

By BlogNo Comments

Who we are online is a lasting first impression of who we may be in person. In the digital age, everything from our name and address to the school we attended and our banking information exists on the internet.

Prospective employers or clients can usually find anything they want to know about you online. Worse, hackers and other ill-intentioned individuals have endless means to take your information and use it against you. Many choose to set strict privacy restrictions to avoid these invasions. Some want to take more drastic measures.

If your online presence has become a problem, or if you just want to live a little more off the grid, there are ways to fix the amount of information out there. It all depends on how deep you would like to go. You can work through encrypted servers and set everything to private, or you can effectively delete yourself from Google and the internet.

How Much Content Do You Need to be Removed? 

There is a spectrum of what you can have exposed to online. Before you decide to start deleting, you need to ask yourself what your ultimate goal is. If you would like to come up “clean” when clients or employers look for you, you may simply need to adjust your privacy settings.

If you want no trace of your existence left, you can get close but not quite completely gone because of digitized public records. State and federal records have been available online for several decades, and there is no way to opt out of their availability. Aside from those things beyond individual reach, however, there is a lot that can be done to minimize your available information online.

Most people who are looking to delete themselves from Google and the internet are really only looking to delete themselves from the eye of the general public. Who you are on your locked down social media may not be the version of yourself you present in a professional environment. For those seeking a clean slate, more work is involved than adjusting the settings.

Where Do I Start?

First, start by searching for yourself on Google and see what you find. This will give you an idea of your biggest issues. Many people looking to go “off the grid,” so to speak, are already fairly private, so there may not be any major red flags. A thorough Google search will let you know if there are any surprises you need to handle first.

If you do find objectionable images or information on yourself and you do not control it (i.e., on a website you do not own), your first step will be to contact the owner and ask that it be taken down. You may have to do some research to find the contact information for the site, particularly if it is an older page.

If you contact the owner and they refuse to remove the issue or if you cannot find their information to ask that it be removed, Google may be able to help. There is a contact section specifically for this situation.

Some things Google may remove at your request are:

  • Involuntary (real or      fabricated) explicit images
  • Certain financial or medical      information
  • The information posted with the      intent of blackmailing you into taking it down

Essentially, start with the worst of the worst. If there is something really bad out there, get rid of it first. Search for your name, any other names you have used in the past, and search those names with towns in which you have lived. Be creative in your combinations for searching and leave no stone unturned. To get rid of the big things, you need to start with essentially investigating yourself.

There are other materials that Google will voluntarily remove as well, but these are for legal reasons. Illicit, illegal content involving abuse, particularly of children, will be removed as soon as it is identified. Materials subject to legal restrictions or classified information will be quickly removed as well. You may need to seek legal advice depending on the situation.

The People You Let Have Your Information

Most of the information online was put there bit by bit, by none other than yourself. After you have the major issues under control, you can change your focus to the more minor things. The seemingly innocuous use of everyday social media can be the biggest minefield of personal information.

Consistent use of social media releases details of our everyday lives, so to eliminate yourself from the internet, this is a good place to start. In the settings of Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets, you can go under your account settings and delete your account. Be sure to back up all of your information before you do so, as you never know when you may need it again. Once it is gone, it is gone for good. Some platforms have tools for retrieval, but most do not.

Facebook does have the option to go inactive if you are not ready to commit to deleting the account but needless no information out there. This keeps your account intact but takes it offline for everyone but yourself.

Once you have taken care of social media, the bigger task begins. You will need to identify every account you have made online and search for their platform for the protocol on account deletion.

One by one, every account you have ever made will need to be not only closed but fully deleted. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Banking Apps, Fitbit, YouTube—these are just a few that will need to be taken care of to be considered offline truly. There are websites dedicated to reducing the digital footprint that can provide you with a list of popular sites and applications and give you instructions on deleting your accounts.

These pages are helpful in consolidating the information as well as reminding you about which accounts you may have forgotten. This will take time, but it can significantly reduce your exposure.

The Other Places that Have Your Information  

One of the most disconcerting internet facts is that anyone can go to a “people search” website such as Intelius and buy your most private information—phone numbers, addresses, family members, etc.. These websites poach public records and put all your information in one convenient place for a nominal fee. Some of these sites compile information from your social media as well, making them doubly invasive.

If you do not want any random person to be able to track you down for ten dollars, you can opt out of “people search” websites.

They do not all make it easy. Some require a snail mail letter or fax to remove your information. However, this is a price you may want to pay for your privacy.

If You Are Serious About Being “Off the Grid”

If you have taken care of the big stuff, gotten off of all the websites, wiped your name off the “people search” databases, and you are ready to truly pull the plug on your existence online, you only have two things left—Email and Google.

Email is a big deal. It is a major form of basic communication. It is the gateway to all other internet life. If you want to be offline, you need to back up all of your sent mail, all of your inbox, and all other saved information, go to your account settings and delete your email. Gmail has a small recovery window where your content can be retrieved, but it is best not to risk it. Once your email is gone, you can work on eliminating yourself from google.

Google holds a history of all of your activity beyond just your browser history. Google uses your information for ads and other marketing. In order to stop google from tracking what you do you need to disable the marketing activity by taking the following steps

  • Click “Manage my Google      Account”
  • Click “Manage your data &      personalization”
  • Click “Manage your activity      controls”
  • Click “Pause” on all of the add      tracking columns

You need to delete your entire activity history quite frequently as well in order to reduce your digital footprint. Using Chrome, you need to do the following steps after each use:

  • Click “Manage my Google      Account”
  • Click “Manage your data &      personalization”
  • Click “My activity”
  • Click “Delete by”
  • Select your range and delete

These steps delete everything you have read, searched, watched, or done at all in the realm of Google.

The Bottom Line 

You cannot truly and completely delete yourself from the internet, but you can dramatically reduce your online presence. Google allows for a great deal of autonomy though it takes a bit of leg work and knows how to effectively restrict its marketing and activity tracking. If you are dedicated to being off the grid, you will be looking at a lot of effort over a period of time, but you can come very close to deleting yourself from Google and the internet.

3-Step Guide to Removing Images from Google

By BlogNo Comments

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.

Why Is It Important to Search and Google Your Name

By BlogNo Comments

Employers, customers, friends, family, and even strangers are probably using search engines to search your name. Google, being the largest search engine by far, is the most likely way they are searching your name. When they enter your name, what do they find? Have you ever used Google to search your own name?

If so, are the results the same today? These are very important questions you need to ask yourself in order to protect your personal and professional reputation. Fortunately, you can monitor Google for search results relating to your name and take steps to ensure your online reputation or personal information does not cause you harm.

Information about you may be easily searchable on Google. When a search is entered into Google, the system uses an algorithm to give you what is supposed to be the most relevant result of the information posted across the internet.

This will include any public records posted online, especially from websites that are based on pulling public information and posting them on their website.

This may also include your home address, tax information, phone numbers, criminal records, mug shots, or any other number of available information. While Google has some of its own information stored on various websites, Google is simply the intermediary to direct people to information across the web.

Conducting searches of your name on Google is crucial to ensure harmful or even false information about you is not listed. Google algorithms continuously change and update according to what is posted to the internet, so these searches should be performed regularly to ensure nothing damaging appears. It is even possible for a search of your name to have different results only days apart.

If the search of your name on Google gives negative results that you do not want readily available, there are steps you can take to try to have that information removed and ideally save your reputation.

Searching your name on Google:

The following guidelines should be followed for searching your name on Google:

1. Start With Broad Search Terms and Then Use More Specific Search Terms

Of course, the first step to search your name on Google is to type in your name. Start with your full name and see what results appear. If your name is a commonly shared name, it may be necessary to use quotation marks to limit unrelated results. For example, if your name is John Doe, you should enter “John Doe.” Doing so will limit results that only have either the terms “John” or “Doe.” If nothing related to you appears, you may need to start branching out to more specific searches. You should search your name in combination with the town and state where you live, with previous addresses, with the name of your work, or in combination with family or friends. As you continue to search using more specific terms in conjunction with your name, you will most likely find additional results that relate to you.

2. Search the Various Pages of Google Results

When you search your name, you may need to go through the various pages of Google results. While most people stop at searches on the first page, there may be negative results that appear deeper in the pages of the search results. Not going through the additional search page results may lead to you missing important results that you do not want publicly available to a motivated searcher.

3. Use the Different Search Functions on Google

While the basic Google search function is your go-to for general search results, you need to also utilize the other search functions provided by Google. Google images are the next important function to use. Images of yourself, your family, your residence, or any other number of personal identifying information can be found. Make sure that no damaging or personal information appears in a search of your name and personal information through the images. Google news is another search function you should utilize. If your name appears in any published news articles, it should appear through the Google news search function. Google videos, which will include the Google-owned Youtube.com, may also provide some results you will want to monitor relating to your name.

4. The Reverse Image Search

One of Google’s most interesting search features is the ability to search by using an image, instead of words. By doing this, you will find any location where the image is posted on the internet.

To perform a reverse image search on Google, follow these steps:

  • Select the image you want to search and have it ready to upload
  • Go to the Google Image search page and select the camera icon
  • Either enter a link to the image or upload the image that is saved on your computer
  • Press the search button and review the results for the locations of the image.

The reverse image search may lead you to additional websites that have information about you or additional images. You can then take the necessary steps to have that information removed or suppressed in the Google search results.

5. Search Usernames and Emails

While most of us think of our actual names and identities as the main way to find personal information about ourselves, we should also consider any usernames or emails as ways to find identifying information on Google.

If you are active on any websites that require a username, you should keep track of those names and perform the Google search using those names or variations to see if personal information appears in the google search results. Perform the same process with any email addresses that may be associated with you. It may come as a surprise how many results you find using these names and the personal information that may link back to you.

As is always a good practice, if possible, using usernames or emails that do not contain your personally identifying information is a good practice, to avoid any linkage to personal information through a Google search.

Professional and Legal Help:

Occasionally, it may be necessary to seek outside help for managing Google searches and ensuring sensitive or damaging information is kept off of Google searches.

There may be extremely harmful information available which, if found by certain people, may irreparably damage you or even put your safety at risk. Having your address, family names and locations, place of work, or other identifying information may be a threat to your safety. Commonly, victims of domestic violence or other crimes fall into this category of at-risk individuals.

In response, a professional that specializes in finding your personal information on the internet and either deleting or hiding that information may be able to ensure your safety. These professionals use techniques to either remove the location of the information or to block it from appearing in Google searches. While Google and other internet websites will remove certain information voluntarily if it violates their policies, they may not remove all information upon request.

Instead, it may be necessary to seek legal help to protect your rights and safety from the publication of such information. An experienced law firm can help by sending cease and desist letters, filing for court orders, or even possibly filing lawsuits in order to get harmful information off the internet that violates your rights.

If you have any restraining orders or have previously been the victim of a crime, it may be urgent that your information is removed. A lawyer may be able to file emergency motions to have the information deleted and hidden to protect your safety.

Takeaway:

Conducting regular searches of your name, variations of your name, addresses, professional information, and images should be done to ensure your internet presence is clean and free of embarrassing or damaging information.

The constant changing of information and the addition of information from websites means that Google’s results of your name may change from time to time. While the majority of changes will be indifferent or not apply to you, there is the chance that harmful or even false information will appear along with your name in the Google Search.

While it may be time-consuming and a drain to continuously monitor your internet presence, using the Google search function on your own name may save you from irreparable embarrassment which cannot be undone.

Certain people and businesses may have special needs related to Google searches of their names. Reputation may be critical to their professional or personal lives and may require constant monitoring. It may also be necessary for security purposes – just having identifying information available through a Google search may put certain people or businesses at risk for harm.

If you have special requirements to ensure that certain information is not associated with your name through a Google search, you should consult with a professional that specializes in search engines, security, and reputation management.

If it is an emergency, or if your legal rights are violated by the presence of personal information that appears in the Google search results, you may need to immediately contact an experienced law firm to protect your rights and have that information suppressed.

Everything You Need to Know About Google’s Removal Policy

By BlogNo Comments

Google’s removal policy is not as straightforward as you may think.

Sometimes, Google may remove content with a simple request and an internal review; other times they may refuse to voluntarily remove the information and require a court order to force removal.

Depending on the content that you are seeking to remove from Google, you may need additional help from an internet expert or experienced privacy and internet-related attorneys.

Right off the bat, you need to identify where the information is located. Google results are typically an index of information found across the internet. While they will lead users to these websites, the information usually exists on the website outside of Google’s control.

Once you have the location identified, you can bring that information to Google’s attention so that they can decide whether it meets their policy for being included in Google search results or otherwise posting on Google-owned websites.

Keep in Mind:

Even if Google removes the site with personal information (or image) from Google search results, the information is still available on the hosted website. Removing information successfully from Google does not result in the content being removed from the internet. It can still be accessed by going directly to the website or possibly through other lesser-known search engines, such as Bing, Yahoo, or Ask.com.

While Google is the most popular method of searching the internet, it is also important to look across various platforms to ensure the harmful information is not appearing anywhere else. If you are unsure of how to do this, you should consult with a professional to help protect your reputation online.

Although Google has a policy for removal, they may determine your information should be located on their search results. When this happens, you may have no choice but to seek legal consultations of your legal rights and rights of privacy.

How to Make a Request for Removal:

Google requires specific steps in order to request the removal of content from its search engine. First, you must access Google’s form for removal. This form is found through the Google website’s help section. Once you have the form opened, you must select the reason for removal.

  • First, you must tell Google whether you want to remove information already appearing in the Google search, or if you want to prevent information from appearing in the Google search. You may select the prevention option if there is specific information you believe someone will post on the internet with the hopes of appearing on Google search and causing you harm.
  • Second, you must tell Google whether the information is in both Google’s search results and posted on a website, or if it is only appearing in Google’s search results. The reason Google needs to know this is to determine whether the information will continue to appear on the internet (which would mean Google’s indexing will potentially select it again, causing it to appear in the Google search again) or if it is information that is only appearing in Google’s search but does not exist on any website. This may include outdated information that is no longer relevant on the internet, however, Google’s search function still includes it in results.
  • Third, you must tell Google whether you have contacted the website that the information appears. If you have not, you can not select an option asking for help in contacting that website’s owner. Google will provide some resources in order to help you find the owner of the website and request the information is removed, however, their interests may not align with yours. Consult with a professional if you do not feel comfortable contacting the owner of the website hosting your information.
  • Finally, you must describe the type of information you want to be removed. Options include personal information, nude or sexually explicit items, content hosted by an exploitative website, or content that should be removed for other legal reasons.

Google’s Removal Policy:

How does Google determine what content should be removed from their search index? It should be obvious that very sensitive personal information will be removed from Google, such as bank account information, passwords, or illegal pornography. Google lists the following information subject to its removal policy:

  1. Government-issued Identification, which includes social security numbers, tax identification, citizenship identification, and passport information.
  2. Sensitive financial account information, which may lead to identity theft or fraud.
  3. Credit card information or online payment account information
  4. Images of your personal signature
  5. Non-consensual sexually explicit or nude photos, including but not limited to hidden camera photos, photos of underaged children, or personal sexual material taken without consent.
  6. The information posted on exploitative websites using blackmail and extortion tactics (see below)

Exploitation and Extortion Websites:

There are allegedly 25,000 reputation complaint sites on the web.

These exploitative websites use embarrassing information or images and use extortion tactics when removal is requested.

They may take information from publicly available sources, which include mundane information like home addresses or phone numbers, or they may include more harmful information, such as criminal records, mugshots, or lawsuit information.

When you request that they remove such information, they will only remove it in exchange for money, or in some extremely exploitative situations, they may seek explicit photos or other highly personal things. While Google’s policy is to remove these websites from their database, this does not mean that the information is taken down from the original website.

If you are the victim of such exploitative websites, you should immediately seek professional legal help to ensure that your rights are protected. 

Personal Information Deemed “Not Harmful to Publish” – Public Records:

Unfortunately, Google does not remove all personal information by request. Instead, they have determined certain personal information is not harmful to publish and readily available by public records. The types of content Google will typically not remove include:

  1. Your personal or business address
  2. Your date of birth
  3. Your personal or business phone numbers

Out-of-Date Information:

One exception to the removal of readily available information is to request that Google remove outdated content or information. For example, if you change your phone number and your new phone number is listed as being owned by its old owner, you may receive unwanted phone calls from people searching Google for the old owner. Notifying Google that the information in their search index will usually result in that information being removed.

Removal Policies Vary by Country and Local Laws:

Google’s removal policy is vastly different in the European Union. In 2014, the European Union’s Court of Justice made a law requiring Google to delete personal content in certain circumstances.

This ruling, dubbed the “Right to be Forgotten” law, requires Google to establish a process for EU citizens to list all websites that may be associated with their name through a Google index search. This is widely different from the laws of the United States, which do not directly address the policy of Google’s search and personal information.

Instead, citizens of the United States may request removal from Google, but it is entirely up to Google to determine their own policy as to removal.

If Google refuses, a United States citizen must take further action to force Google to remove the information from appearing in its search. This will typically require acquiring the help of a legal professional to start the legal process against Google and any other offenders on the internet.

Professional and Legal Help:

A skilled attorney will be able to review the content you want to be removed and advise whether the law will uphold your position for removal. To do so, it may need to violate criminal or civil protection.

These may include:

  • consent laws (typically invoked for personal images or possibly pornography laws);
  • defamation (typically invoked for protection against false information that has a negative impact on your personal or business reputations); or
  • protective orders issued by another court (typically put in place for domestic violence or other violent crime victims to protect them from people who may harm them).

When is Google’s Removal Policy Not Enough?

What should you do if you cannot remove information from Google on your own?

Contacting an experienced law firm dedicated to protecting the rights of clients on the internet is an important step you should take in getting content removed from Google. While you may have never anticipated it would require legal intervention, it is not uncommon to use the court system to force Google to remove your information.

While Google is a huge company with deep pockets, they are still motivated by profit and financial success, so the hiring of an attorney may require them to use their own legal resources to defend their position for not removing your content from their website.

Depending on your situation, you may also need to seek the help of online reputation management professionals. These professionals specialize in monitoring and removing content from Google, in order to protect their client’s image and character. Many businesses employ specialists to do exactly this.

They search the internet, looking for harmful information to their brand, or monitor reviews of products and services. If you have a brand or image to uphold, it may be a good idea to contact a reputation management expert in order to ensure you are protected by harmful exposure online.