Follow these tips on how to remove your name from internet search engines. This shields more of your personal information from circulating online — and reduces your risk of identity theft.
Search engines are powerful, widely accessible and free — and have made it possible to find nearly any sort of information that you are interested in. Unfortunately, those search engines are also very good at making your personal information readily available at the click of a button.
This may seem relatively innocent. After all, what do most of us have to hide? While that’s certainly true, your personal information is quite valuable in the wrong hands.
Consider this scenario: A hacker gains access to your email account. This means they can contact anyone you’ve ever emailed before. Next, they search your name on Google to learn more about you, they look at your social media to see how you talk, they research your background, they see who you are connected to. All of those breadcrumbs lead them to a very clear picture of who you are, how you speak and what you are all about.
Once hackers have a strong profile, they go back into your email and pretend to be you. They’ll then reach out to contacts, using information gleaned on social media and search engines to trick people into clicking links that appear to come from you. These links can install malware and infect the user’s computer.
All of a sudden, everyone in your contact book is put at risk — all because hackers used publicly available information to mimic your behavior. These phishing attacks are becoming more common every day! To prevent this mess, here’s how to remove your name from internet search engines.
Is your personal information in the wrong hands? Use Privacy Bee’s free Data Breach Checker to find out.
How to remove your name from internet search engines
Each search engine has its own method of removal (example: how to remove your name from Google searches). And oftentimes, you’ll need to work with websites listed on search engines to remove your information. So unfortunately it’s not as easy as a single click opt-out to remove your personal information from search engines!
If you have ever typed your name into a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo, there is a good chance you may have been surprised by what you found. It could have been full names, voting records, phone numbers, dates of birth and even your family tree.
It is impossible to fully delete yourself from search engines, but there are steps you can take to clean up your digital footprint and remove (or at least hide) yourself from search engines.
1. Secure your social media accounts or delete them entirely
Search engines love social media. All of the major search engines’ algorithms rank social media sites high in their search results, and if you have an account with your full name, any search of your name and photo is likely to be near the top of those results unless you happen to be a famous movie star or pro athlete.
The first step you should take to remove your name from internet search engine results is to secure your social media accounts. Warning: that means making them private!
Check what sites you still have accounts with such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Also check for old accounts on sites like Tumblr, Google+, MySpace, and old photo-sharing services. If you aren’t using any of those profiles, consider deleting them permanently. This will immediately bolster your level of online privacy.
Search your name in one of the main search engines like Google and scan the first 10 pages of results for old social media accounts you may have forgotten about. Those are ripe for deletion!
When learning how to remove your name from internet search engines, you may also come across profiles that you didn’t realize were public. For instance, if you invest in crowdfunding sites like Republic, you’ll have a profile that may be indexed by search engines. To prevent this from showing up in searches, log in to each website and search for the setting to turn off search indexing. If that setting doesn’t exist, consider deleting any unused profiles to reduce your digital footprint!
Another tool is to change your name on those accounts to nicknames or something that would be only recognizable to friends.
How to make your Facebook profile private
- Click the ▼ ( button in the bar at the top right of the page.
- Select “Settings and Privacy” and then click the “Privacy.”
- On the left sidebar, click “Privacy”
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “edit” on “Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile?
- Uncheck the box “Allow search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile”
While you’re there, take the time to ensure your profile privacy setting are secure by limiting your posts to “friends only.”
How to make your Twitter private
Twitter, like Facebook, ranks high in search engines and if you have tweeted under your real name or have tweets with your name in them, they will likely show up on the first page of results. One way around this is to make your Twitter account private. Note, people will not be able to read your tweets unless you allow them to follow you.
- Log into your Twitter account and click the “More” button with three dots in the left sidebar.
- Click “Privacy and settings”
- Click “Your account”
- Click “Privacy and safety”
- Click “Audience and tagging”
- Check the box for “Protect your Tweets”
How to make your Instagram private
- Log in to the Instagram app and click the three bars at the top right of the page.
- Click “Settings”
- Click “Privacy”
- Slide the bar to activate “Private Account”
2. Scan for old posts, comments and reviews
The internet of 2010 is worlds away from the internet of 2021, but one thing remains the same — everything you posted about your cat on your blog and morning coffee in 2012 and the review of your neighborhood deli is still out there.
This is an easy step towards removing your name from internet search engines. It can be accomplished by deeply scanning search engine results and manually deleting those posts. Time-consuming, yes, but manageable.
While you’re at it, be sure to delete any comments that may not stand the test of time. Each of those comments, when posted on a publicly-searchable forum, can become fodder for search engines.
Tip: Search in incognito mode or in a private browser window to get better results
For posts you may have written for websites that you don’t have control over such as guest blog posts, you will need to contact those websites directly. Be nice, and it’s likely they will help you out. Check the about us section at the bottom of a website for contact information.
If you can’t find that, you will have to conduct a Who Is search to see who owns the website. There are free services such as www.whois.com that will provide you with that information and often a contact as well.
3: For serious matters contact Google/Bing
When it comes to sensitive information that’s found its way into search results, Google will help users remove it. This is not a common practice, and you must provide proof for the company to take action.
If someone has posted sensitive information such as a full Social Security number or bank account, Google will work with you. To do so, send a legal request to remove content from Google.
This isn’t a shortcut to removing unsavory information about you online; You won’t be able to make personal requests. So reserve this tool for instances when someone has shared personal information online and you want it taken down. (Speaking of, if you feel like your identity has been stolen, here’s how to contact the Big Three credit bureaus, the first thing on the list of what to do if your identity has been stolen.)
4: Delete yourself from data brokers and people search sites
There are many reasons and factors to blame for this widespread availability of personal information ranging from the explosion of social media to data brokers and data collection companies to “free” apps and app-based games.
The truth is, in many cases when you sign up for one of those free services or games, you are paying with your personal information and data. Once you waive your right to that data in order to download or access the service, the data takes on a life of its own in the mostly invisible marketplace.
That data can include full names, home addresses, phone numbers, partial Social Security numbers, voting records, birthdates, marital status and more.
People search sites are a particularly active part of the data sharing community. Sites like Spokeo.com, Intelius.com, Whitepages.com, MyLife.com and PeopleFinders.com purchase your personal information and create free accounts or post it publicly. Occasionally, they charge a fee, but those results still show up in search.
The largest data brokers also aggregate personal information from a variety of sources to create robust profiles of individuals — and then sell access to those profiles to marketers, governments and others.
You can search through these websites and ask for your information to be deleted one-by-one. The process can be confusing and time-consuming with requests taking up to 60 days to be completed. Here’s more on removing your name from people search sites and how to remove yourself from data broker sites.
5. Delete your online shopping accounts
You’d be surprised at how many eCommerce accounts are actually public. For instance, did you know that Amazon publishes your Wish List for anyone to see? Yep! You’ll need to go into your account and set each list to Private, which prevents them from being indexed by search engines.
And if you can’t set them to private, consider deleting your account and using a company that gives you control over your data privacy! It’s seriously not cool when companies set your privacy to public by default — especially with potentially private information around your shopping preferences.
Remember: if the profile is public, data brokers can scrape that information to improve their profile about you! Public profiles give data brokers a lot to work with, which in turn makes that profile more valuable to their customers. By preventing that data from getting into the hands of data brokers, you make yourself less valuable to them!
6. Delete old email accounts
Another tactic to remove yourself from internet search engines is to delete old email accounts. This may seem a bit counterintuitive, but it’s a path to prevent any unauthorized users from gaining access to all of your past history.
Imagine: a hacker gets ahold of your email address and publishes it online. Now, it’s there for everyone to see – and connect to your existing profiles. After deleting all of your old profiles, comments and posts, try deleting affiliated email addresses. That’s not going to prevent you from showing up in search – but it will prevent your email address from being exposed (and subsequently showing up in search engines). Once the address is deleted, emails will bounce and your email address will be scrubbed from corporate databases. That’s one less data point to appear in searches!
7. Get help
One of the most difficult parts of removing your name from internet search engines is tracking down each and every source that is holding onto your personal information.
This is partially due to data brokers who have constructed interfaces that scrape the web for your personal information from social media, public records, and corporate filings. Those companies then create online profiles in your name without ever asking if you wanted one in the first place!
The easiest way to deal with this is to sign up for a privacy protection service that specializes in removing your information from the internet such as Privacy Bee. The company handles all opt-out requests for you and follows up with each and every company in its database of over 38,000 websites to ensure they are deleting your personal data.
8. Remove outdated search results
Google does allow you to request to remove results for outdated search results. There are plenty of search results that show up long after changes have been made to the websites they are showing the results for. For example, if you were part of an intramural club in college and at one point were featured on the club’s website, Google still may be showing that result in searches even if the page has been updated or your information has been removed.
If this is the case, submit the URL of the erroneous result to Google’s remove outdated content tool. It typically takes between 10 and 15 days to remove the URLs.
If this doesn’t work, either because Google disagrees or your content is not eligible for removal, you’ll need a different tactic: adding positive links to bury negative content. Of course, this is the opposite of “removing your personal information from the internet.” But sometimes real results require drastic measures!
9. Hide bad stuff by flooding search engines with positive links
Most people looking to remove themselves from search engines are either privacy-focused or have something they want to remove from the results. That could be information they don’t want to be seen by a potential employer, family members, or friends. A last-ditch effort to “bury” the personal information or bad news attached to your name is to create new content that ranks highly in search engine results.
The goal is to send whatever content you want to hide onto the second or third page of search results by feeding Google’s algorithm with new, relevant content about you.
This can be achieved by creating new social media accounts, creating a personal website or blog, writing guest blog posts or crafting press releases under your name on free press release websites such as EIN Presswire.
Each new piece of content that you create — especially if it’s on a website with high Domain Authority (meaning it’s trusted by Google and will rank highly) — pushes the negative stuff down. Sure, this is a process, but it’s well-worth it if you need to not just remove your name from search engines but hide negative content as well.
Remember: Public once, public forever
It’s nearly impossible to completely remove your name from internet search engines. So remember the golden rule: Once public, forever public. Be prepared that anything you share online will be there until the end of time!
There’s even an archive of the internet, called the Wayback Machine, that periodically captures screenshots of nearly every website in existence. So even if you manage to scrub your personal data from every last nook and cranny, it may still be archived forever.
If you follow our guide on how to remove your name from internet search engines, you’ll make a serious dent in deleting yourself from search results. To level up your privacy protection, here’s another guide on how to delete yourself from the Internet in 10 steps. Nothing is fool-proof, but every little removal contributes to reducing your digital footprint and protecting yourself from identity theft. All worthy pursuits in the continuous fight for your data privacy!
For individual people search sites, here’s how to submit a BeenVerified opt out, remove yourself from WhitePages, submit a Lexis Nexis opt out and remove yourself from TruthFinder. Don’t forget to remove yourself from Intellius too!
Last updated: May 13, 2021