I’m not going to teach you anything if I tell you that Google collects your personal data to use and resell it. But do you know how to protect yourself from Google?
There are hundreds of little techniques, but today I chose to show you how to disappear from Google?
I will first show you how to easily block the collection of data that Google imposes on us without installing anything on your computer. Then, how to remove search results containing your personal information. And finally, my favorite trick which is simply to blur your home on Google Street View.
In short, good little tips to increase your level of privacy compared to Google.
How to easily block the collection of data that Google imposes on us
- First, go to https://myaccount.google.com/privacycheckup/. This is the main page you’ll work from in this guide.
- If you haven’t already, log in to your Google account.
- Now move through each category, such as Web & App Activity, YouTube Search History and Location History.
- Click “Manage” under each to see how Google uses your information, and turn off any section you don’t want collected.
- Next, select the section named “Make ads more relevant to you.”
- Turn “Ad personalization” off. This means Google won’t target ads based on the interests it knows you have from using its other tools, like Search or YouTube.
- Now tap “Control what others see about you.”
- Click “Edit your shared endorsement setting,” and turn this off. This will prevent your reviews for places like restaurants or apps appearing in the Google Play Store or Google Maps.
- Now tap “Help people connect with you.” I leave this on since I like people to be able to search for me through video chat and other Google apps, but you can turn this off here.
- Now choose “Manage your Google Photo settings.” Here, you can turn off Google’s ability to recognize your face. This is used if people snap pictures of you and upload them to Google Photos, which can automatically recognize friends and family and create albums. If you don’t want people doing this, turn it off. I leave it on, since I like it.
- Click “Manage what you share on YouTube.” I turn off everything so that people can’t see my playlists or when I like or dislike a video.
- Finally, go here: https://myaccount.google.com/data-and-personalization. This lets you turn off information Google collects about how you use its services, such as YouTube search history, voice information, your location and more. I leave mine on because I’m always testing Google services and like the recommendations, but you should turn them off if you’re worried about privacy.
Google’s Activity Controls
How to Remove Your Personal Information From Google Search
Recently, Google added to its privacy repertoire by letting you submit a request to delete your addresses (both physical and email) and phone numbers from potential search results. You can request this without even having to prove that the data floating out there is a problem (with some exceptions), which is a big step for the search engine.
The PII mentioned above has been added to the already-existing ability to limit exposure on Google results of the following:
- National ID numbers
- Bank accounts
- Credit card numbers
- Personal signatures
- Login info and credentials
- Medical records
- “Irrelevant pornography” (that is, explicit material somehow tied to your name)
- Deepfake porn you may appear in against your will.
If you’re afraid of getting doxxed(Opens in a new window), Google may even remove your professional contact info.
That’s all great news, but how exactly do you get Google to take down the offending PII?
Eventually, you’ll be able to do it within the Google app. Picture doing a search on your phone number, seeing it appear in results, and being able to click the three-dot menu next to the result to ask that it be deleted. Google says this will happen within the next few months. Before then, you’ve got to do a little bit more work.
The first stop is this Google Search Help page(Opens in a new window), which has a rundown of the options above but also shows the direct link to this form: Request to remove your personal information on Google(Opens in a new window).
The options are either to remove information that appears in search results or to prevent information from showing up in searches altogether. If you want the latter, and you own the website with the information you don’t want showing, Google spells out how to block a URL or specific site pages from Google search results. It involves robots.txt files(Opens in a new window), meta tags(Opens in a new window), and password-protecting page files(Opens in a new window).
Removing info requires you to know if it is appearing only in Google search results or in results and on a separate website. If the latter, Google may not have control over what’s there, and it asks whether you’ve contacted the site’s owner first to remove the information. It also suggests ways to get in touch with a site.
Maybe you don’t want to get in touch with a site, or you’ve already tried. Google asks you a series of questions, such as what type of info you’d like removed, narrowing it down to one specific thing when possible. It’ll also ask whether the content is being shared with the intent of doxxing(Opens in a new window) you—that’s when someone shares your PII with the intent to harm you. You might need to enter a lot of data, but the more detail you provide, the less likely it is that Google will have to follow up with you before nuking the PII in search results.
Google says if your PII appears on a live page you control, and you’ve already updated it to remove the information, eventually it should go away—but the page might be cached. That’s when you request to remove outdated web pages(Opens in a new window). You’ll need specific URLs for pages; you can submit up to 1,000 URLs on the form.
You can also request the removal of outdated images found at images.google.com—you’ll need to copy the URLs for each image as well (right-click and select Copy Image Address if you’re in the Chrome browser).
Next, you receive an email confirmation that the request came through. (If you don’t, do it again.) Google reviews the request, gathers more information if needed, and finally, you’ll get a notification of any action.
How to blur your house on Google Maps and why you should do it now?
So maybe you’re worried about an online stalker, maybe you don’t want strangers peering in your windows, or maybe you value privacy for its own sake and simply don’t think Google should have indexed and digitized photos of your home available for all to see. Whatever the reason, it’s relatively easy to request Google blur out the image of your home or apartment on Google Street View.
Here’s what you do:
1. Go to Google Maps and enter your home address
2. Enter into Street View mode by dragging the small yellow human-shaped icon, found in the bottom-right corner of the screen, onto the map in front of your house
3. With your house in view, click “Report a problem” in the bottom-right corner of the screen
4. Center the red box on your home, and select “My home” in the “Request blurring” field
Google’s San Francisco office.Credit: Screenshot / Google
5. Write in the provided field why you want the image blurred (for example, you may be concerned about safety issues)
6. Enter in your email address, and click “Submit”
Importantly, be sure it’s what you want. Google warns you that once it has blurred your house on Street View “it is permanent.”
Don’t forget, though, you live in the place. If you ever need to be reminded of what it looks like, presumably you can go outside and see for yourself.
After you hit “submit,” you should receive an email from Google noting that it’s “reviewing the image you reported and will email you when your request is resolved.” The company may follow up, via email, and ask you to be more specific about the area you want blurred. If so, you will need to do the entire process again — clearly detailing the specific area of the picture you want blurred.