Have you ever searched for yourself on Google? It may sound odd, but it is a great way to discover a tiny part of what the web knows about us. And, most importantly, it is the only way we have to know if we need to ask Google to remove relevant personal information that should not be shared publicly.
In April 2022, Google added new options for removing your personally identifiable information from its search engine, including government ID numbers or pictures, banking details, contacts, personal information, and specific data such as medical records. Naturally, Google will not remove personal details included in news articles or public record databases.
The feature adds to the previously existing option to request the erasure of content from searches that could be used for any kind of harm, such as non-consented pornographic content, images of minors, or copyright violations.
For European Union residents, Google was already complying with Article 17 of the General Data Protection Regulation, the Right to Erasure, which directs all companies in the EU to remove the personal data of individuals upon request. The same principle applies to California’s Privacy Law and states with similar regulations.
Once something is online, there is no absolute way to get it removed. But there are a few things you can do to clean up your online presence:
There is no simple answer. Most likely not.
But it also depends on the type of user you are. If you’re concerned about your privacy and have a limited social media presence, it is likely you can delete most of your digital footprint.
On the contrary, if your data is more or less everywhere, the goal above is very unlikely. Your friends have certainly published pictures of you on their feeds, and you’ve lost count of how many times you used your email address and phone number to log in to various websites and apps, not to mention all the data concerning your online activity that those services sell to third parties – with your consent.
But don’t be discouraged. There’s a good chance that you still have time to limit what people or companies can check about you. This is extremely important, not just for general privacy, but also to avoid the harm that might come from exposing your religious, political, or personal convictions in the public space