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It can be extremely distressing to come across photos of yourself online that were published without your knowledge. Perhaps an ex-partner published intimate images of you without your consent, or maybe someone stole your photos and is selling them online.
If you have already tried and failed to get the photos removed from a particular website, you may still be able to request they be removed from online search results. To remove your images from Google search results, the first step is to ask the site owner to remove them from the website where they were published.
If that does not lead to removal, we recommend utilizing the following strategies to remove your images from Google:
Lock down or delete your social media accounts,
Submit an image removal request to Google,
Purchase the website where the image was posted or obtain rights to the image,
Use reverse search engine optimization (SEO) or online suppression to bury unwanted content,
Request qualifying content to be removed under Europe’s “right to be forgotten” law (for E.U. citizens only), and
Work with an experienced content removal attorney to pursue alternative legal options for removal.
Our legal team at Minc Law has extensive experience removing harmful photos from Google. We have helped both individuals and businesses remove more than 50,000 pieces of unwanted content using the very techniques discussed in this article. Our attorneys understand the ins and outs of navigating reporting procedures, negotiating with website owners, and obtaining court orders to compel the removal of damaging content.
In this article, you will learn how to remove the most common types of unwanted content from your search results.
Reasons You May Want to Remove Images From Google
There are many reasons you may need to take down images of yourself from Google search results. They may be damaging to your personal or professional life. Or if they have not affected your life yet, you may be concerned your leaked personal information could be used maliciously or to impersonate you.
In this section, we break down the most common types of images you may want removed from Google and why.
Why Might You Want to Remove Certain Images from Google?
The main reasons you may wish to remove specific images from Google search results include:
To protect your privacy and personal safety,
To prevent damage to your personal well-being and reputation, and
To avoid damage to your professional reputation.
Privacy & Personal Safety Concerns
First, you may want to remove images from Google due to privacy concerns. These images may reveal personal information about you or others, such as your home address, phone number, or other private details.
When images are publicly available that share your private information, it can make you vulnerable to consequences such as:
Several types of images on Google can negatively impact your professional reputation. For example, images that show a person engaging in illegal activities or inappropriate behavior—such as drug use or public intoxication—can be damaging. Images that depict you in a compromising or embarrassing situation can also harm your professional image.
In addition, images that are sexually explicit or contain nudity can also damage your reputation, particularly if you work in a field that is sensitive to such issues (such as education or public service).
These compromising images may cause you to lose your job, become ostracized by coworkers, or lose future employment opportunities.
Types of Images You May Want to Remove from Google
The most common kinds of images our clients want to remove from Google include:
Misleading or defamatory images,
Images of unlawful behavior,
Controversial or sensitive topics,
Personal information and data,
Copyrighted images, and
Outdated or inaccurate information.
How to Get Images Removed from Google
The best strategy for removing images from Google and the internet depends on your unique situation. The images’ location online, as well as the type of damaging information they contain, determine how you should proceed.
In this section, we list nine steps to consider when trying to remove compromising images from internet search results.
Identify Where Your Images Are Located Online
First, find the location of the images in question. We recommend starting with a reverse Google Image search, which should show you all the places where that photo is located online. Simply copy and paste the image into Google Images using the “search by image” tool.
If the photos in question were published on a pornography website, you may want to check other popular adult sites for duplicate content. In revenge porn cases, there is often a ripple effect where once an image or video is posted on one site, it is quickly republished on other similar platforms.
Check adult websites like PornHub, RedTube, and XHamster.com. You may also want to search Tumblr, Reddit, and Twitter, which are also popular platforms for users posting adult content. Just be careful not to search your own name too many times, since the more you do, the more likely it is to appear on the site’s search tags. We recommend always using an incognito browser, especially when searching for adult content.
Finally, consider subscribing to an image recognition service. If you are concerned about images of you appearing online, a tool like PimEyes can use advanced facial recognition technology and machine learning to notify you of any matching images on the internet.
Preserve Evidence of the Image
Next, compile a comprehensive list of all the page URLs where the images are posted, and save copies of the photos themselves. You may need proof of the photos later—especially if you file a defamation or harassment claim against the poster.
While you can use paid tools such as Visualping and Page Vault to document evidence, it is also relatively simple to preserve evidence of the images using your devices’ built-in features. For instance, you can take a screenshot by pressing:
The lock and volume-up buttons at the same time (iPhone), or
The power and volume-down buttons at the same time (Android).
You can also save entire web pages by clicking CTRL+S (on Windows) or CMD+S (on Mac) to save a timestamped HTML version of the site to your hard drive. And of course, you can always print documents if you want to save a hard copy.
Contact the Site or Platform Owner to Request Removal
The best way to ensure your photo is permanently removed from search results is to first have it removed from the website it is published on. If it is removed from the source website, it will ultimately be removed from Google results. You may need to contact the person who owns the site where your photo is being hosted.
A few common ways to get in touch with a site owner include:
Using the “Contact Us” form or contact information on their website (usually found on the homepage);
Conducting an ICANN lookup search to find the site owner’s contact information; and
Using services like Hosting Checker or DomainTools to find and contact the site’s hosting provider.
Submit an Image Removal Request to Google
While removing an image from Google does not remove it from the internet completely, it does prevent the image from appearing in search results. We recommend having the content removed at its source before requesting its removal from Google search results.
If you have successfully removed the content at its source website—whether by taking the individual images down or removing an entire webpage—you can use Google’s outdated content removal tool to update search results for content that no longer exists.
If you are having difficulty removing the images at their source, you may still be able to remove them from Google search results if they violate your privacy or other rights. Google provides the following forms for different types of emergency image removal requests:
Sensitive personal or financial information—Content that contains confidential information such as government ID numbers, bank account numbers, personal contact information, or medical records;
Intellectual property violations—For example, copyright or trademark infringement;
Legal reasons to remove content—For example, court orders, instances of child sexual abuse, or other situations where the content was deemed unlawful;
Revenge pornography—Explicit images of you that were shared without your consent;
Involuntary fake pornography—Fabricated images or videos falsely depicting you in a sexually explicit situation without your consent;
Exploitative removal practices—Images of you on a site that requires payment to have the content removed;
Images of a minor—Identifiable photos or videos of a person under 18 years old (this form must be submitted by the individual, their parent/guardian, or an authorized representative).
Note:If the content you are reporting involves child pornography or other images of a minor, reporting procedures are more difficult. We recommend you report the content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children or speak with an attorney when dealing with that type of content.
Purchase the Website Where the Image is Posted or Obtain Rights to the Image
Occasionally, you may be able to buy or gain control over the website that published the images. Perhaps the domain expired and you are able to purchase it. In this situation, you can take the images down on your own (if they remain online).
Or you may be able to acquire the copyright for the content in question. If you do not already own the content, you may be able to persuade the copyright owner to assign it to you (or let you send a DMCA takedown notice on their behalf). In this case, you can report the images as a copyright violation and have them removed.
Utilize Reverse SEO or Online Suppression
Reverse SEO is an online reputation management technique that involves publishing your own content to suppress unwanted Google search results.
For instance, you might post new photos on your social media profiles or website. You may even publish them on photo-sharing sites like Pinterest and Flickr. Wherever you post these new photos, optimize them for search by:
Including keyword-rich alt text,
Using keywords in the photos’ file names and metadata,
Properly tagging and categorizing the photos on image-sharing sites,
Building high-quality backlinks to the photos from other authoritative websites, and
Sharing the images on your social profiles and encouraging likes and shares.
When these photos begin ranking higher in Google search for your chosen keywords, they push the unwanted images lower in search results.
Work With Experienced Content Removal Attorneys to Pursue Legal Options
Removing unwanted online content is often a complex task that requires knowledge of existing copyright, defamation, harassment, and obscenity laws.
An experienced internet defamation attorney can not only devise an effective legal strategy to resolve your matter but also help send removal requests and retraction demands. They should be well-versed in negotiating with publishers and platforms, filing a defamation lawsuit when necessary, and obtaining court orders for removal or de-indexing of content.
Court Order to De-Index Content
If the other methods on this list are ineffective, you may need to obtain a court order to have the images removed from search results.
However, it is important to remember that de-indexing is not the same as removal; the images will still appear on their host website. While it is often enough for some of our clients to prevent casual Google searchers from seeing the images in search results, others may want a more permanent solution.
Right to Be Forgotten Considerations [For E.U. Citizens]
If you are a European Union citizen, you have the “right to be forgotten,” which enables you to have your personal data erased if it meets specific standards. E.U citizens may request data to be removed if it is no longer relevant or necessary, or if it falls into another category specified by law.
Once you have successfully removed unwanted images from the internet, it is natural to worry that they may crop up again. In this section, we provide information on the available options and tools for monitoring your digital footprint, keeping unwanted images off the internet, and responding if the photos do reemerge.
How Long Does it Take for Google to Remove Images?
Google receives a large number of removal requests daily, and its moderation team reviews each request on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the content violates the platform’s policies. Google may also need to verify your request’s authenticity to confirm that you have the right to make the removal request.
While content removal requests are often processed within 24 hours, Google is not legally obligated to process removal requests within a certain time period. You may have to wait several days or weeks for the platform’s moderation team to review your request form and remove the content.
How Can I Make Sure that Unwanted Images Stay Off the Internet?
If you are concerned about compromising or unwanted images reappearing online, we recommend following these strategies:
Regularly monitor your online presence,
Be careful with what you share or post online, and
Invest in a reputation management service.
Regularly Monitor Your Online Presence
There are several free and paid tools available online to help you track your digital footprint. You can set up a free Google Alert to notify you of any time your chosen keyword—like your name—appears in search results. Regularly Googling yourself in incognito mode can also give you an idea of what appears when strangers search your name.
If you are worried about images of you appearing online, you can also use advanced facial recognition tools like PimEyes to alert you of new online images containing your face.
One simple way to avoid unwanted images of you being published online is to be cautious of what you choose to share voluntarily. Set all of your social media accounts to the maximum privacy settings possible, and use common sense when deciding which photos or posts to share publicly.
While a reputation management service may not be able to completely remove an unwanted image from the internet, it can lessen the image’s impact. These services help you cultivate a positive personal or professional brand, ensuring you have a positive digital footprint.
If there is negative or unwanted content about you, reputation management services can help ensure that content is not the first result that appears in a Google search of your name.
Why Should You Work With a Content Removal Attorney to Ensure Images Remain Offline?
Removing unwanted content from the internet comes with plenty of challenges and unexpected obstacles.
Unless you personally control the website where the content was published, it can be difficult to navigate the nuanced negotiation and reporting processes required to remove your photos from the internet. And even if you are successful in removing them, it is similarly challenging to ensure those images remain offline.
A content removal attorney can help you not only remove unwanted images from the internet, but prevent them from reappearing in the future. Experienced online content removal attorneys know the ins and outs of navigating reporting procedures and submitting requests to publications and platforms. Unlike other reputation management agencies, attorneys are also bound by professional standards of conduct and confidentiality.
Some internet defamation attorneys—including those at Minc Law—also offer digital risk protection and monitoring services to help identify and remove potentially harmful content as soon as it appears online.
Finally, content removal attorneys are well-versed in related areas of law, such as defamation, copyright, and revenge porn. If you decide legal action is necessary, an experienced content removal attorney can advise you of the potential risks and rewards before helping you prepare and file a lawsuit.
★★★★★ “As is often the case, only the courts can remedy obscene behavior from sociopaths. Rather than spend money on public image consultants, I would highly recommend Daniel and his team for a more effective solution through the judicial system.”
Aug 9, 2021
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