Here’s a question for you: who do you think knows more about you: your spouse or partner, your parents, or Google? Well, most people would answer “spouse or partner” or “parents”. After all, your parents have known you your entire life, and the person you’re living with each and every day knows just about everything about you – including the good and the bad.
Surprisingly, the answer is Google. Yes, Google, that one-of-a-kind search engine that can take you to any website on the planet in the blink of an eye. There are 3.5 billion searches each day, which comes to 1.2 trillion each year, which is not surprising since more than 92% of all Internet searches take place on Google. And Google records all of them, including yours.
Why Does Google Want Your Information?
The volume of saved Google data is simply mind-blowing. Google’s search index has over 100,000,000 GB of data, so they really don’t need any more. But they want every single bit of data, including yours, because that’s how they make their money. And they’re making a lot of – the company was recently valued at $346 billion. They sell all of their data to people-search sites and advertisers so they can pinpoint consumers in a highly targeted way.
Google doesn’t have any data about you on its own, instead, they have tiny little Google bots roaming the Internet looking for anything with your name, email, address, smartphone, and just about everything else – and then publishing it or selling it. If you want to see what they have about you – just Google your name and see what pops up. It’s jaw-dropping and eye-popping, and most people don’t even know it’s out there.
Here’s Why it’s a Problem
Google has all this information about you, and it can impact your privacy and your safety. They sell this to people-search sites, and anyone can access that data – including cybercrooks. Once they have it, they can use whatever’s on there to dig deeper and end up with financial or other private information about you – including your Social Security number. The next step: identity theft – a rapidly growing criminal enterprise that’s taking in over $56 billion a year.
It might start with a scam phone call, or a phishing email. The Caller ID will be spoofed to look like an official call from the IRS or Amazon, for example. So you answer it and if you’re not aware of what’s going on, you’ll end up revealing a lot more information than you ever intended. Another concern is that the information Google aggregates is inaccurate, so there can be a lot of misrepresentations about you floating on the Internet.
Removing Your Personal Information from Google
Before you look for a link to click on Google that will delete your personal information, it’s best to tell you that Google doesn’t have any of its own information about you. It simply searches the Internet to find anything with your name involved, and then publishes and sells it. In order to remove your personal information from Google, you have to remove all of your information from people-search sites and other websites. Which is easier to say than to do.
Here’s why: there are over 100 people-search sites, including Intelius, Whitepages and US Search, and each one has its own methods of removing your unauthorized personal information and letting you opt out. This is an arduous, time-consuming project that can take weeks to accomplish, but it’s something that has to be done. One alternative is to hire someone to do it for you, but because of the number of sites and the work involved, it can get quite costly.
Make sure you get a disposable email service, like Blur, EmailOnDeck and E4ward, and use it whenever you opt out of people-search sites. Otherwise, you’ll find your inbox loaded with spam or you’ll end up revealing your email identity to potential cybercrooks.
Your next step is to remove all personal and sensitive information from social media sites, like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, among others. All of your private and sensitive posts need to be deleted, because, if not, they’ll show up on people-search sites. Each social media platform has privacy modes that you should engage, and they each have their own requirements for removing data.
Another key step is to remove all information from any websites you own or blogs you post. Your “about us” page will contain a lot of private information about you, and you want it removed. In addition, it’s probably outdated, and if it is, you can ask Google to remove the information.
In fact, Google has various policies of data and information removal, and as long as the data you’re requesting to have deleted meets their criteria, they should be willing to do it for you. Those policies include information that can lead to identity theft or financial harm, fake pornography, sensitive financial or medical information and explicit photos that were published without your permission.
If there is information about you on other websites, like former employers, for example, you can ask the owners of those sites to delete your information. The more personal information you can remove from the Internet, the less information Google will be able to gather about you and sell to people-search sites, and where it ends up is anyone’s guess.
Bottom line: use the tactics and suggestions above to remove as much of your personal information from Google. It will help protect your privacy and help prevent you from becoming a victim of identity theft.