Google has become an indispensable tool for modern-day internet users. It’s how you find out the best vacation hotspots, search for health tips to keep yourself safe from the pandemic, and get your news about the latest celebrity gossip. In other words, it’s become a quick information fix for everything and anything you want to know. So, no wonder Google is enjoying over 90% share of the search market.
Now, one of the essential benefits of the search giant is its ability to run background checks. Whether you want to find out about a new employee you’ve hired or a new tenant who just moved into your apartment building, you can turn to Google to unearth nearly all that’s available online. Google bots index almost every web page out there, and its algorithms can instantly come up with a relevant result based on your search request.
Of course, this is a massive advantage when it comes to getting to know people better, verifying what they share, and ensuring the safety of you and your loved ones. But all this can be an issue when the tables are turned, and you’re the subject of the background search.
Why would you want to stay off Google?
Of course, you may not have anything to hide from the search giant. But the very fact that anyone can look you up on Google leaves much to worry about. First of all, it could severely compromise your privacy. And your life could become an open book thanks to a search engine giant that has likely collated every single piece of online information related to you.
Second, and more importantly, it could adversely affect your daily activities and ability to harness opportunities available to you. For example, one negative data that turns up on a search result might damage any prospects of getting a job, renting an apartment, or obtaining a loan.
Things can get even worse. For instance, malicious individuals may fabricate damaging information and post it online. Or an identity thief could commit a crime using your ID, causing criminal records to appear under your name. They could even post sensitive data for anyone to access in an attempt to cause you distress and harm.
Now, without a search engine, finding such details could be pretty difficult. But Google could give them more visibility by displaying its content on its search engine result pages (SERPs). So, if you want to protect your online reputation and prevent unnecessary intrusions into your personal life, taking a moment to get your data off Google makes every sense.
But wait, there’s more. Google’s hold on your data extends even beyond its search engine services. Many people forget that it’s a tech giant with many other businesses and services, from Google Maps, Assistant, TV, Calendar, and Classroom to Gmail and YouTube. As a result, it gets to collect a massive amount of personal data across various platforms using a single log-in ID.
In other words, Google could know where you live and travel, who’s on your contact list, what’s on your schedule, and which videos you’re watching online. That’s a frightening amount of personal information for one company to have about you.
Protecting your data from Google
So, how can you keep your data away from Google and improve your online privacy? Here’s what you should know.
If you’ve already searched your name on Google, then you likely know which information you want to take off its SERPs. Prepare a list of all the web pages and URLs and start off by contacting the website owners with data removal requests.
When that doesn’t work, you can reach out to Google using its Google Search Help page. However, bear in mind that your request must fall under certain criteria for it to accommodate it. Plus, it can only remove content from its search results and not from the original website.
According to Google guidelines, here’s what it would delete from its SERPs:
- Explicit or intimate material shared without your consent.
- Fake pornographic material that depicts you without consent.
- Personal data on websites that use exploitative practices.
- Sensitive information like SSNs, financial data, and medical records, which may put your safety at risk.
- Information on websites that use doxxing practices.
How to keep your data off Google’s data-collecting radar?
If you’re using Google platforms and services, the first step is to minimize what you share on your account settings. For example, keep personal data to a bare minimum, sharing only what’s essential to set up an account. Another important measure is to access services as a guest where possible. For example, you can search and watch videos on YouTube without logging into your account. But remember to delete cookies as often as possible to prevent these sites from tracking your activities.
You should also check the data collecting and sharing permissions you have provided Google and its services. These are typically listed under the Data & Personalization tab in your Google account settings. Here you’ll find a number of options to prevent data tracking and maintain privacy. For example, you can switch off ad personalizations and prevent Google from saving your web and app activities and location history.
In addition, avoid using your Google credentials to log into platforms outside its direct network of services and companies. This could prevent it from collecting data through third parties and vice versa.
However, keep in mind that taking your personal information off Google’s search results and data collecting networks would take considerable effort and time. But if you’re after a more long-term solution, adopting responsible data-sharing habits is the way to go. A cautious and mindful approach to sharing personal data could significantly cut down your data trail and help protect your online privacy.Last modified: July 20, 2021