Your personal life is nobody’s business, right? Well, because of the Internet and rampant collection of information by every website and social portal on the planet, privacy sometimes feels like a thing of the past.
If you have information out there that you don’t want other people to see, here is how to fix it.
Prevention: How to Block Your Information on Google
An ounce of prevention goes a long way towards keeping your private life, well, private. The first step in locking down your online reputation is to limit your own exposure. You can do that in a variety of ways.
- Secure online and social media accounts using the built-in privacy and permission controls.
- Don’t post anything online you wouldn’t want your mother to see.
- Don’t store risqué photographs of yourself on your cell phone, which could be hacked.
- Avoid posting negative or damaging comments, reviews or photos online on any website that you do not own.
It may seem obvious, and it is but, keep in mind anything you put online is a somewhat public domain. Unless you own the website, you don’t have full control over it, and it can be used without your permission even if privacy guidelines prohibit it.
Removal: How to Remove Personal Information From Google
Google first recommends that you search for your name online. See what comes up and then formulate a plan. If you find things that come up in a Google search that you want to be removed, here is what you need to know.
- First, create a Google account and fill it out thoroughly with all the information you do want to show up in your profile. Keep things like address and phone number private if you want, but this step will help to override what is already out there. By going directly to the source, Google will prioritize information coming from their platform.
- If there is sensitive information out there that violates HIPAA laws or someone posts your social security number, bank account or credit card information online where others can see it, contact Google immediately for removal of that information. They will quickly remove reference of it from their search indexes, but you will also have to reach out to the website that posted it.
- Contact the Webmaster for any sites that have information on them that you want to be removed. Even if Google removes the search index, people can still find your information on those websites if they visit them. Try to reason with the owner or provide alternative content if needed to get them to remove what you want to be removed.
- Contact Google and use their Public Removal Tool to request that a URL be re-indexed with the new, updated information and removal of your sensitive data.
Removing unwanted pictures or comments about you or from you, posted online that put you in an unflattering light can be challenging. If you follow the steps below and you have limited success, then you might need to fight fire with fire and move on to step three, suppression.
Suppression: How to Build a Strong Personal Brand to Suppress Online Information
Thankfully the Internet moves at the speed of light, so anything that was posted yesterday is already old news. One of the best techniques for covering old, unwanted content is to bury it with fresh, new content.
- Create new social media accounts and fill them with new, positive details and photos.
- Create a full profile within Google and fill it with details, and content.
- Start a blog and frequently post with new, positive articles that shed a favorable light on any subject you are trying to bury.
- Purchase the domain of your first and last name and pull all the material together in one place, your social media posts, blogs, articles and links to other positive content, especially your Google profile. Mention your name frequently. This new content will push old, unwanted stuff to the bottom of Google searches. Use the same search words that came up in your initial search for yourself.
Remember, your best weapon against unwanted mentions online is, prevention, removal, and suppression!