An unflattering image has the potential to do much more than bruise your ego. Failing to remove unwanted personal pictures on Google can threaten your privacy, damage your reputation, and permanently interrupt your life.
It doesn’t take much these days for a total stranger to figure out exactly what you look like. If someone wants to see your face online, all they need is your name and a few seconds on Google.
Here are a few reasons why finding your photo on Google should set off alarms:
- Bad actors can use your image to target you
- Viewers can take unwanted photographs from your past out of context
- Employers and business partners may lose confidence in you because of disturbing images
- “Catfish” can steal your appearance to create fake social media accounts and pretend to be you
It can be incredibly difficult to preserve your anonymity if a Google search of your name renders images with your face in them. Keep reading to learn how to protect your privacy by removing your image from Google.
How Does My Image Appear in a Google Search?
Seeing your face staring back at you can be a disorienting experience. But how do your pictures get online in the first place?
There are two primary reasons why your image is appearing on Google:
- You posted the picture yourself. Roughly 3.6 billion people use social media worldwide, and chances are that you’re one of them. Even if you’ve deleted all of your social media accounts, you probably uploaded a few pictures containing your image before you did. Once your image appears online, it’s difficult to predict where it will end up.
- Other people post pictures of you. Third parties who possess your picture may upload it onto blogs, gossip websites, photo stock, mugshots, and people-search sites without your consent. Your picture could also appear on current or previous employer websites, a seemingly harmless event with the potential to upend your privacy.
As smart as Google is, it can’t read your mind, judge the appropriateness of images based on your standards, or determine if someone uploaded a picture of you without your consent.
Ultimately, Google’s job is to deliver the most relevant content to their user’s searches. If someone types in your name, Google will crawl through and display articles, comments, videos, images, and social media posts regardless of how flattering or negative they are.
Check which of your personal details are exposed online
OneRep scans the web for your private information and removes it from people-search sites. Automatically.
When Do Images Posted Online Pose a Threat?
Every day your negative or embarrassing images may end up on Google resulting in missed opportunities to win more followers, build strong personal relationships, engage more customers, and grow your career.
While a problematic picture can impact anyone, these groups of people are especially vulnerable to a negative image being displayed on Google:
People seeking employment
Given the following statistics gathered from a Career Builder survey, you’re at particular risk of missing out on career opportunities if your image is used in an unscrupulous way online:
- 70% of employers use social media to research job candidates
- 48% of employers use social media to monitor their employees
- 34% of employers have fired or reprimanded an employee because of their social media content
Famous people (influencers, celebrities, public officials, etc)
The reality is that if you don’t take down that image of yourself from the internet, you may face consequences that impact your life. Unfortunately, that can play out even if you’ve spent the past several decades building an impenetrable reputation among your family, friends, and colleagues.
For example, after establishing himself as one of the most progressive politicians in the world, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced intense scrutiny when pictures of him in blackface from 1999 and 2001 emerged online. The resurfaced images called into question his authenticity and nearly derailed his 2019 reelection campaign.
Individuals in or seeking romantic partnerships
Another threat to consider is the use of your image by “catfish,” people who use another person’s photograph and pretend to be them online. If well-known celebrities like Katy Perry can have their images taken and used to trick people, anyone’s image is fair game.
Unbeknownst to you, your picture could also be used by a romance scammer to swindle an unsuspecting person into sending money to support their new, online romantic interest: you. In this type of situation, your appearance is being used to steal from someone. Because it’s done without your consent, you have no idea where or how your face is being manipulated.
Whether it’s an old, unflattering picture or a recent, harmless one, leaving it online puts your safety, security, and reputation at unnecessary risk.
How Do I Remove My Images from Google?
The first step to removing your image from Google is identifying where your pictures are posted and who’s posting them. Type your name in a Google search and see what the results yield. Your face will probably appear on several platforms.
The good news is that you’re likely to have control over most of the content featuring your personal information, including photos. That’s because you probably uploaded that content to the internet in the first place.
On the other hand, there may be some online images of you that are out of your control. In these situations, you’ll need to reach out to the content owners and ask them to remove the image for you.
Here are seven steps you can take to remove your image from a Google search:
Step 1: Remove Your Images from Your Social Media Accounts
Deleting your images from each platform you use is the best way to remove them from Google. Yes, there may be a cost to removing your photos from Instagram and Facebook, including missing likes and comments, but for many people, restoring personal privacy outweighs the social benefits.
If you’re not ready to go as far as removing your images from Instagram or Facebook, you can still prevent your photos and videos from appearing on Google by setting your accounts to private (see the Instagram and Facebook instructions for guidance). Also, your Instagram images may appear in Google search results if you’re logged into your account using third-party web viewers that have access to your profile and images. If this is the case, revoke the access now.
Step 2: Remove Your Images from Sites You Own
If you’re an entrepreneur, blogger, or person who keeps an online portfolio, there’s a strong chance that you’ve uploaded images of yourself to your website. Here are a few ways to remove them from Google:
- Go through each page and remove images containing your picture. When Google reindexes your pages, it will stop showing the deleted images in its search results.
- Consider using a logo in place of a personal photograph, relying on strong text, and uploading visuals that don’t depict your face to create an enjoyable online experience for your site visitors that doesn’t endanger your privacy.
- Additionally, you can prevent images on your page from appearing in Google search results. Use the Remove URLs tool to quickly remove images in Google hosted on your site. For non-emergency removals, follow the instructions Google provides here.
Step 3: Remove Your Images from Someone Else’s Site
When someone else posts pictures of you on their website, there’s no guarantee that they’ll take them down. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask. Reach out to the following people and institutions and request that your image be removed:
- Former employers. Check their About and Team pages and ask if your image can be removed.
- Review and testimonial pages. Remember that online course you took on how to quit smoking? Reach out to services and brand owners you’ve reviewed in the past and ask them to remove your image from the attached testimonial you provided.
- People-search sites. Data brokers like PeekYou pull your photos from social media to include them in your background report. Fortunately, the law is on your side. It requires data brokers to remove your information including your images upon request. The removal process is not always easy, which is why we created these free DIY instructions to guide you through. If you don’t have free time on your hands, have OneRep help you to restore your privacy.
Remove your sensitive info from Google
- Mugshot websites. Every year, thousands of individuals are wrongfully arrested or their charges are dropped. But they still have to defend their reputation when they find their mugshots within Google search results for their name.
Follow these steps to remove your mugshots from the websites that publish them, and from Google image results:
- Locate the sites where your mugshot first appeared.
- Copy the url of your listing on the site.
- Submit an opt-out request via the website’s removal form. Alternatively, use the website’s email to request your data removal.
- Wait for some time until the website deletes your mugshot from its records and Google stops showing it.
Step 4: Clean Up Google Results from Deleted Images
You’ve already removed your images from your social media, websites you own, and the blog pages that belong to someone else, but the photos still show up in Google? Use Google’s Remove Outdated Content tool to have the search engine update the results for pages or images that no longer exist.
Step 5: Bury Images in Google Search
You can suppress old photographs by posting new content and images associated with your name. Upload professional content, positive blogs, and, yes—flattering, neutral, and professional personal images that are very likely to show up ahead of the unwanted photos stuck online.
Step 6: File a DMCA Takedown
You may be protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). If someone else posts an image you own on their website, you can file a DMCA Takedown to remove the image. Remember, your image has to be copyrighted to be protected by the DMCA.
Remove Your Image from Google to Stay Safe
No one should be judged for their worst photograph, but so many people are in the age of the internet. Whether you want it to happen or not, Google will index and display your picture unless you take active steps to wipe your face off the web.
Thankfully, you can regain control of your privacy and narrative by removing unwanted photographs from Google. Use the tips we outlined for you as a starting point of your journey that will eventually lead you to online safety and solid reputation.