There are many reasons why you could be interested in knowing how to disappear from Google and other search engines. It is possible that someone has posted sensitive personal data, slanderous content, or there might be simply something awkward damaging your online reputation. Knowing the process to disappear from Google is important for managing online reputation, and especially important for celebrities, politicians and public figures in general.
If the information you want to delete is on your own account, for instance on your Twitter or Facebook account, there is not much to say. It is not necessary to make a formal request; you can delete the content by yourself and also delete the account completely. All social networks allow users to remove the accounts or personal profiles from the database.
But we also have rights when the information is on another person’s account. The right to know, update and even erase personal information in databases is known as habeas data, and it is considered in the constitutions and international agreements of several countries. That same right is sometimes called the right to be forgotten.
In some cases it might be difficult to exercise this right. For example, in some countries there aren’t many laws to protect privacy, or the legal procedure is extremely expensive. A shortcut to avoid this kind of problem is to make the content disappear from Google, so the link will not appear on the search results and it will be much more difficult to find.
How to request deletion
This is possible and quite easy to do in Europe, thanks to the Data Protection Directive of the European Union (Directive 95/46/EC). If you live in the European Union and you want to request Google to remove a search result that contains your personal data, you can complete the form Search removal request under data protection law in Europe. Also, it is recommended to check the article Remove your personal information from Google.
The right to be forgotten could be in conflict with the freedom of speech right, so there is controversy about what of them should prevail. Every circumstance is special, so completing the form does not guarantee that the request will be granted. Nevertheless, the bar is quite low for what kind of content you can ask to be removed. For example, it might be the case that you have switched professions and you might no longer want to be associated with your past job. For that, you only have to explain that to Google, and the information will be removed from its search results.
You might be able to request the removal even if you don’t live in the European Union. It all depends on the laws of your respective country. You can research the legislation, or just complete the form anyway to see what Google decides.
What about doxxing?
Doxxing is the act of publishing someone else’s personal or private information with malicious intent. Fortunately, online platforms are increasingly considering doxxing a violation to their terms, and they allow users to request the removal of the content. Sensitive information that can be removed is usually ID numbers, credit card and bank account numbers, images of handwriting signatures, photos of ID documents, medical records, login credentials and general personal information like phone numbers, addresses and emails. You can find more information regarding Google’s policy on that and request removal on Remove select personally identifiable info or doxxing content from Google Search.
Although you can make the information disappear from Google, it might be good to also check the website where the content was published to see its policies and if you can report there too. Twitter, for example, allows you to report doxxing and accounts incurring in that behaviour can get suspended or permanently banned.