Set Up a Google Alert
Anyone with a Google account can set up a search with an email alert. Create a search using your name or other criterion, and set it up to send you an email whenever it finds a new mention. It’s relatively easy to set up and doesn’t cost a penny. The only drawback is that it’s limited to what Google can find. Since it’s currently the most popular search engine, some people won’t find this to be much of a drawback.
Use a Service to Control Your Privacy
There are products available, such as MyPrivacy, that offer both free and premium services for monitoring and managing online privacy. Free services typically offer only monitoring, which for some people may be enough. Knowing where you’re mentioned gives you enough knowledge to either request the information be removed, or take steps to remove it yourself. Higher levels of paid service usually generate automatic requests for removal or provide detailed removal instructions to their members.
Get Your Personal Information Redacted
Most states allow certain information to be changed as well as redacted from online versions. Visit the county clerk to verify your public records. Usually telephone numbers and Social Security numbers can be redacted. Addresses can usually be changed to a post office box, so consider renting one.
Make sure to verify your information in the Uniform Commercial Codes database at the same time. This database contains property and lien information. More importantly, the data within the records may contain your Social Security number. Federal privacy laws require that it be removed upon request of the individual.
Opt Out of Information Broker Services
These companies gather your information over the internet and through government records, and then sell it to interested parties. Usually they will comply with your request to remove information, but only that which does not come from government documents. However, they will update any information coming from those documents, if requested. So make sure they update their information with the government records you recently had changed.
If they refuse your request, you can always complain to the Federal Trade Commission. Though they won’t do anything on your behalf, enough complaints will cause them to investigate the business.
Bury Your Online Personal Information
In some cases, it’s impossible to get online content removed, even with a court order. In these cases, the only alternative is to bury the information. The premise is that most people don’t look past the first page or two of search results. If information that you don’t want appears in these top spots, then you can place additional pages of information on the web that will rank well for these searches, thereby pushing the other stuff further down the list. It’s definitely not easy to do. That’s why most people engage the services of a professional company to get this done.
Stephen Jeske is a former partner in a 49-year-old family business and writes about issues affecting business owners and individuals including how to manage their online reputation.