There are many potential reasons you might want to remove your name from the internet. Perhaps you are being targeted by an extortionist or doxxed by an anonymous source—or maybe a defamer of your business is also making your personal information public. Or perhaps you simply want to protect your digital privacy.
Regardless of your reason, you can use the following eleven strategies to remove your name from the internet:
- Take control of your own websites, social media profiles, and old email addresses;
- Delete or deactivate your online shopping accounts;
- Overhaul your passwords and use two-factor authentication;
- Opt-out of information collection from data brokers;
- Ask the author to remove the content (or at least your name and image);
- Report any Terms of Service violations to the platform that contains the content;
- Submit a request to Google’s Revenge Porn Portal;
- Ask search engines to de-index or remove the content;
- Send a DMCA takedown notice for any name copyright violations;
- File a lawsuit to obtain a court order that compels the content’s removal; and
- Use online reputation management strategies to suppress the content on Google.
At Minc Law, we have proven experience helping clients protect their online privacy, from removing damaging content to identifying anonymous harassers, filing defamation lawsuits, and obtaining court orders. We prioritize methods that remove, hide, or suppress privacy violations as quickly as possible without drawing more attention to our clients than necessary.
In this guide, we explain the types of information that is being collected about you online, starting as soon as you connect to the internet. We then cover several methods you can use to protect your digital privacy from harassers and doxxers by removing your name from the internet.
How Your Personal Information Lands on the Internet
Many internet users assume they have a certain level of anonymity because their information is uninteresting—but that assumption is simply not true. This section covers the kinds of information that websites gather about you, and how they do it.
What Kind of Information Is Being Collected About You Online?
The sites you visit collect information about your activity, including the links you click and how long you stay on a page. You have probably “accepted all cookies” more often than you can count—but the depth of information that can be collected about you online extends far beyond individual websites collecting activity about your visits.
Your every move is tracked as soon as you log onto the internet. The traces of your activity can be used (legally) by various websites and third parties to identify you and learn more about you, including:
- Your search history,
- Your location,
- The device you are using,
- The browser and operating system you are using,
- The browser plugins you have installed, and
- Advertisements and links you click on.
Some sites even use browser fingerprinting to track and detect browser configuration settings to identify users who do not provide personal information.
Through a complex data collection and sorting process, these sites can use technical information about your device, location, and browsing history to make eerily accurate assumptions about who you are and what interests you.
How Do Websites Obtain Your Personal Information?
Sites gather user data using several methods, including:
- Data brokers,
- Web scrapers,
- Public records and social media, and
We explore each method in more detail below.
Cookies are small text files sent to your browser by a website. These files store identifying data that helps these websites remember and track you.
While one purpose of cookies is to improve and simplify your web browsing experience (like remembering the contents of your shopping cart or auto-filling your login credentials), it is easy to see how they could also be used to gather more sensitive information and data about you than you would prefer.
Data brokers, and data broker websites, collect and compile information about internet users, then sell that data to third parties. These companies capitalize on the massive demand for consumer data—in fact, data brokering is an industry worth over $200 billion. Data brokers’ clients are usually companies looking for consumer information for targeted marketing campaigns.
The information these companies collect is extremely detailed and, some would say, invasive. Any information that you can imagine might help a company sell you a product or service is of interest to a data broker. This kind of information can include your contact and biographical information, occupation, family members, and hobbies.
Web scrapers are automated sites that republish content from other websites, usually without giving credit to the original creator. These sites are usually created to generate advertising revenue, and they are generally in violation of copyright laws.
Public Records & Social Media
A great deal of information about you is publicly available online, for anyone interested enough to find it. Websites can learn about you through public records like:
- Birth certificates,
- Real estate transactions,
- Marriage licenses,
- Trademark filings,
- Voter registrations,
- Court and criminal records, and
- Business and entity filings.
Public information also includes information that is self-reported on platforms like social media sites, mailing list signups, contests, and surveys.
Finally, some private information is released by individuals in an attempt to harm or retaliate against their victims.
Doxxing, for instance, is the act of publishing the victim’s personal information online—like their name and address—so that readers can find and harass them. While doxxing is rare compared to the other data-collection methods in this list, it is still a serious problem for those affected.
When Do Websites Get Your Personal Information?
Collection of your personal information and its turnover to websites begins as soon as you open a browser window. The minute you log onto the internet, your IP address, location, and other data are transmitted to third parties.
That information increases the longer you spend online, whether you share it voluntarily or not.
Why Would I Need to Remove My Name From the Internet?
Our modern lives demand a near-constant online presence. After all, we conduct business, interact with friends and family, and make purchases online.
It may seem impossible or unnecessary to remove your name from the internet—but rest assured that there are several reasons to want to protect your digital privacy as much as possible.
Why Might You Want to Remove Your Name From a Social Network?
You may prefer not to list your name on a social platform for many reasons. Below, we will focus on two of the most common:
- To protect against potential identity theft or impersonation, and
- To stop malicious online attacks such as defamation or harassment.
Protect Yourself From Potential Identity Theft or Impersonation
Your identity is valuable, which is why removing your personal information from social media is a common-sense step in avoiding theft and impersonation. Having your identity stolen can make it extremely difficult to go about your daily life, from damaging your credit to making applying for a passport or driver’s license unnecessarily complicated.
Identity thieves can gather a great deal of information about you from the information you post voluntarily on social media. If they are trying to gain access to your bank account, for instance, they may be able to find answers to common security questions—like your mother’s maiden name or where you went to middle school—from a quick perusal of your Facebook page.
And the danger applies to real-life theft, too. For example, if the wrong individual sees from your Instagram posts that you are on vacation or out of town, they may take advantage of your absence to burglarize your home.
You Are Being Defamed or Harassed Online
Those who hold a personal grudge or wish to harm your business can weaponize the content in your social media profiles for their own interests.
These malicious actors may use your personal information, photographs, and videos to defame or harass you online. For example, they may use a fake profile to create negative or embarrassing content in your name.
Or if you are being targeted for harassment, the perpetrators may scour your social media profiles to find information—like your location, social network, and employer—that they can use to cause you further physical or emotional harm in the real world.
How Can Personal Information on the Internet Negatively Impact Future Opportunities?
False and negative posts, videos, and other content about you online can potentially have a catastrophic impact on your life. Harassment and defamatory content can lead to:
- Lost employment opportunities or business revenue;
- Damaged relationships with friends and family;
- Mental health effects like stress, depression, and anxiety; or even
- Physical symptoms like sleeplessness and high blood pressure.
This damaging content can pose several significant risks to your reputation by influencing the opinions and decisions of those in your professional or social circles—especially if it “goes viral.”
How Can Removing Your Name From the Internet Help Your Reputation?
If you apply for a new job, start dating someone new, or even make a new friend, odds are good that they will Google you. Most people in personal and professional settings like to do preliminary research on a new contact to check for any glaring red flags.
If you are being harassed or defamed online, those new connections might see negative content about you if it appears on the first page of Google. Scrubbing your name from the internet (or even suppressing it in search engine results) can help your reputation by making it more difficult for personal and professional contacts to form a false impression of you.
And of course, ensuring that the information about you on the internet is kept to a minimum means employers and online harassers do not have access to your contact information, family connections, or even criminal history.
Steps to Remove Your Name From Internet Searches
The bad news is that you cannot completely remove your name from Google search results. But there are a few methods you can use to protect your digital privacy and remove your name from the internet, which we list below.
Take Control of Your Own Websites, Social Media Profiles, & Old Email Addresses
If you own a domain—such as a blog through WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix—you can start by making sure all information it contains is valid and lines up with the reputation you want to cultivate.
Then, review all of your Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, and other social media profiles to make sure every piece of information they contain is something you feel comfortable sharing publicly. Check for the following types of personal data and information:
- Photos of you and your family/friends,
- Your occupation and workplace,
- Your contact information,
- Your educational history,
- Your marital status and family connections, and
- Your full name and age.
We recommend setting all your profiles to private so only your friends on each platform can see your information. But if you decide to keep your social profiles public, make sure everything they contain is something you would feel comfortable appearing on Google search results.
And if you are unsure if there are a few old accounts you have forgotten about, you can use data-breach-notification sites like Have I Been Pwned? to find instances where your information might have been compromised on obscure platforms.
Delete or Deactivate Your Online Shopping & Service Accounts
Have you created accounts on retail sites like Amazon, Target, or Wal-Mart? Many shopping sites invite users to create an account to track orders, save payment information, and more.
To delete these accounts, visit your profile and look for an option to close, remove, or deactivate your account. If you are unable to close the account completely, you can change your registered name to something generic like “John Smith” and remove any personal information that is not required.
Overhaul Your Passwords & Use 2FA
Much of protecting your digital privacy is making sure your passwords are updated and uncompromised. Even if you have locked down or deleted an account, the content it contains may still be vulnerable if you have a weak password.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) ensures you are who you say you are, even if you have the right password. The most common 2FA tools send you a text, phone call, or email with a code that you provide along with your password when logging into a platform.
If the platform does not offer 2FA natively, you can use Google Authenticator or another 2FA app to secure your account via 30-second generated timecodes.
On Data Broker Sites, Opt-Out of Personal Information Collection
If you have found your name or other identifying information on a data broker site—or you just want to prevent your information from being collected—you may be able to opt out of information collection.
Most well-known data brokers allow individuals to deny permission to publish information on that specific site. We recommend visiting each data broker site to navigate its opt-out procedures.
Request Removal From the Individual Who Published the Content
If another person has published content online that contains your name or other identifying information about you, you may be able to convince them to delete it. This content may be located in blogs, social media, forums, and online news sites.
Ask the Publisher to Remove Your Name or Image From the Content
In the case of online publications, many journalists and editors are reluctant to take something down in its entirety. But you still may be able to convince them to remove your name or image to better protect your digital privacy and reputation.
For example, the reputational harm of a news article covering an arrest can be mitigated by removing the suspect’s name and/or photo.
Report Any Terms of Service (ToS) or Conditions of Use Violations to the Website Where the Content is Displayed
Most websites have conditions of use or terms of service (ToS) that users must follow. You can usually find a ToS link on the website’s homepage. If the content containing your name violates the platform’s ToS, you can flag it for review. The platform moderators may remove the content if they agree that it violates the rules.
Use Google’s Revenge Porn Portal
If you have been the victim of revenge porn—which is the publication of explicit content about you without your permission—you may be able to ask Google to remove the URL from its search results. You can submit a notice to Google through the platform’s revenge porn portal.
Keep in mind that while Google may remove the content from appearing in search results, it does not remove the URL from the internet. Users can still type your name directly into the revenge porn website or find the content through other search engines.
De-Index or Remove the Content From Search Result Listings on Google & Other Major Internet Search Engines
If you are unable to convince an editor or webmaster to remove the content, you may be able to convince them to add a no-index tag to the URL. This de-indexing process prevents the content from showing up in search results.
Again, de-indexing does not remove the content completely from the internet. But if you are worried about users searching your name and discovering this content, de-indexing prevents the content from appearing in a simple Google search.
You can also request to remove your name or other personally identifiable information (PII) from Google search results, including:
- Bank account and credit card numbers
- Photos of your identification documents
- Restricted personal records like medical records
- Government ID numbers like your social security number,
- Username and password to various websites,
- Photos of your signature, and
- Contact information like your phone number, email, and physical address.
How Long Can It Take to Remove Your Name From Internet Searches?
There is no easy answer to how long it may take to get something taken off the internet. Each case is different; some websites respond within a few hours, while some webmasters or news editors might take a few weeks or months to respond to your request.
When you submit a de-indexing request to Google, the team evaluates the content and gathers more information if necessary. Their decision may take hours, days, or even weeks.
Submit DMCA Takedown Notices for Any Name Copyright Violations
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a federal statute that protects copyright holders from having their online content used without permission. If someone is sharing content you created—like photos or videos—without your permission, they are infringing on your rights.
A DMCA takedown notice is a legal document informing the infringing party that the content they posted was done so unlawfully and should be removed. DMCA takedown notices can be sent to posters, websites, web hosts, and search engines.
For example, you can visit this Removal Dashboard or this support page to submit a DMCA takedown notice to Google. You will be able to create a notice of copyright violation and provide as much relevant information as possible about the content in question.
File a Lawsuit to Obtain a Court Order to Compel the Removal of Content
If content online contains your name along with defamatory statements, you may want to file a lawsuit to obtain a court order for the content’s removal. Most online platforms will comply with a court order to remove content, even if the author refuses to delete it themselves.
Defamation lawsuits are time-consuming and costly, so be sure to reach out to an experienced internet defamation attorney to learn about your options before filing a claim.
Use Online Reputation Management Strategies to Suppress the Content in Search Result Rankings
Suppressing unwanted online content can be extremely effective in preventing reputational damage. Online reputation management (ORM) services suppress unwanted content by:
- Creating positive content (like blog posts, social posts, or press releases),
- Managing and responding to online reviews, and
- Monitoring the internet and search results for mentions.
When positive content ranks highly in search results, it pushes other (negative or defamatory) content further down the page—or off of the first page entirely.
How an Internet Defamation Attorney Can Help You Remove Your Name From the Internet
While it is possible to remove some content about you from the internet, you will have more success with an experienced team at your side. At Minc Law, we have had clients who submitted very thorough requests and reports, but we were able to get more cooperation from those same platforms on their behalf.
Every case and platform is different, which is why an experienced internet attorney can help.
What Obstacles Might You Face When Trying to Remove Your Name From the Internet?
Individuals might face several hurdles when attempting to convince authors or websites to take down content containing their personal information. We discuss a few of those obstacles below.
Potential Legal Defenses
Often, as long as the content containing your name is accurate and truthful, there are almost no legal means to force someone to remove content with your name from the internet. This is especially true with newspaper articles.
The publisher or platform may rely on specific legal defenses against removing statements containing your name, like:
- Fair report privilege—The statement containing your name came from an official public document or public official;
- Newsworthiness defense—The statement containing your name is a matter of legitimate public concern;
- Opinion and fair comment privilege—The statement of opinion or comment is about a matter of public interest;
- Wire service defense—The statement was republished (without changes) from a reputable wire service like the Associated Press;
- Incremental harm doctrine—The defamatory portion of the statement does not overshadow the effect of the non-defamatory portions;
- Substantial truth doctrine—The statement is substantially true, even if it has a few minor inaccuracies; and
- Statute of limitations—You brought a lawsuit against them after the state’s defamation statute of limitations was over.
Additionally, publishers and platforms may state that your name is part of the public record and that history should not be erased. Many websites and publications have extremely inconsistent unpublishing policies in place, so it can be difficult to get a consistent response to take-down requests.
Finally, the publisher may weigh competing interests of whether taking it down or keeping it up is in the best interests of the publication’s readers.
You Are Unable to Reach the Webmaster or Host of a Website, or They Are Unwilling to Remove the Content
It can be extremely difficult to get in touch with the appropriate person or department when attempting to remove your name from a website. And once you do contact them, they may be unwilling to cooperate.
When reporting content that invades your privacy, the most important thing to remember is to stay patient. The webmaster or website owner’s attitude may change over time, so it is better not to burn any bridges—instead, you can always try another request later.
Stubborn Defamers & Doxxers May Not Always Remove the Content
If you are being harassed with invasive or defamatory content online, these perpetrators are likely unwilling to remove their content even if you ask nicely. But you should resist the urge to retaliate against your harasser.
Public responses or attacks can draw more unwanted attention to the content, known as the Streisand Effect. And if you publish false statements in retaliation against your attacker, you may open yourself up to legal liability.
Instead, report the content to the platforms—like using Google’s tool for reporting the doxxing of personal information. And we suggest working with a defamation attorney to craft your complaint, compile evidence, and form a response.
How Can a Content Removal Attorney Help You Remove Content From the Internet?
Legal teams experienced in internet matters like defamation and content removal know how to protect your privacy properly and efficiently. While many reporting and content removal methods are accessible to everyone, it can take a great deal of time to research and find the proper methods for your situation.
On the other hand, Internet defamation attorneys are skilled and experienced in applying existing harassment, stalking, copyright, defamation, and obscenity laws to remove unwanted online content. We help by:
- Advising you on the best legal strategy for your case,
- Pinpointing key legal issues and performing needed research,
- Navigating complex platform and publication reporting procedures,
- Writing retraction demand letters and removal requests, and
- Filing a defamation lawsuit on your behalf.
If your removal request is rejected, we often know how to rephrase or resubmit it for better chances of being approved. And many platforms like Google can be inconsistent in their responses to de-indexing request forms, which is why it is helpful to contact the website administrators directly. An experienced internet attorney can help you remove the content at its source.
Minc Law Can Help Remove Your Name From the Internet
At Minc law, content removal is at the heart of what we do every single day. We stay up to date with ever-changing content removal techniques and strategies to efficiently remove unwanted content from the internet – all without drawing unwanted attention to the matter.
We have helped thousands of individuals and businesses clean up their digital footprints, monitor the internet for online threats and attacks, and pursue legal remedies when appropriate.
“Absolutely phenomenal. Michael took care of every single issue of defamation. I was concerned about wording because of the public nature of all parties involved, but Michael had open communication and approval from me all along the way. I will suggest him to absolutely anyone.”
June 22, 2022
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