Your missing situation being public – your ‘Digital footprint’

Information about you online is known as your digital footprint. You have lots of rights about how this is managed, including having it removed, which is often referred to as your ‘right to be forgotten’. If an appeal has been shared about you when you were missing we know you might not want that information to stay online for people to search in the future.

It can be hard to get personal information taken down from the internet but we have put together the following guidance to try and make it easier.
Other people in your family or who care for you can also request for information about you to be taken down. They can use the same forms and it will let them do it on your behalf.

Search yourself or the person who was missing

Search your name online. We would recommend doing this on Google, Bing and Yahoo. (There are other search engines available but these are the three most popular. If you want all information removed you will need to check every search engine but this can be very time consuming)

Make a list

Make a list of all the websites that the appeal appears on. Copy and paste all the links (URLs) into a word document so you have them all saved in one place.
Copying the links can be a slow process but it is important to ensure that everything is taken down. If you don’t have time to go through all the links you can just copy and paste the ones that contain significant amounts of personal information (for example ones that include a photo)

We would expect most links to be found on three different types of sites:

  • Media, for example local newspaper websites
  • Social media, for example Facebook or Twitter
  • The actual search engine, for example Google search results

The following information details how you can try and get your information removed from these three places. It is possible that there might be other webpages featuring your information and these will likely have their own methods for getting personal information removed. Unfortunately we can’t give guidance for all sites but you may be able to find out more by searching on the website or getting in touch with them directly.

Media sites

Firstly, try writing to the website and asking them to take the page down. In some situations they should do this because of your right to privacy, and even when this isn’t the case, journalists and editors should respect your wishes and remove the information if you ask them.

We have drafted a template letter/email that you can use, to download it, click on the list below.

  • Download the template
  • Personalise it by adding your own name and the name of the media site
  • Let them know exactly which article(s) you want taken down, include the URL links if possible
  • Find the right email address or postal address to send it to on their website. You may need to just send to their generic email address – it’s normally under ‘contact us’ on any organisation’s website

If you don’t receive a response or the website refuses to remove the information, you can contact them again with a link to this page on the impact of missing appeals remaining live which includes a legal note on their duty to remove information.

If the site still won’t remove your information, you can follow the steps for removing search engine results that are detailed below. This will at least mean that the webpage does not come up when people search for your name. Unless they give you very strong reasons for refusing to remove your information, you might also consider complaining to the office of the UK Information Commissioner. The Commissioner has extensive powers under data protection law and, if they agree with your complaint, could require the media site to take the relevant page down.

Social media sites

Sometimes missing appeals are shared on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. People normally share missing appeals because they want to help and care about the person being found safe. However, they don’t always realise the impact of leaving those posts online when the person is found.
Missing People share appeals on our Facebook and Twitter accounts but we always delete the posts as soon as we know the person has been found.

On Facebook you can fill out a form on their website to say that a post or photo violates your image privacy rights which will mean the post will be taken down. You will need to provide the links (URLs) and confirm whether you are doing this for yourself or on behalf of a family member.

Search engines

You can request to have webpages which include your personal information removed from web searches. This means that when anyone types in your name the links to pages about you won’t appear and therefore are harder to find. It’s important to know that this doesn’t mean that the pages are gone completely – the website on which they’re hosted would have to delete them for this to be true, however, it does mean that it’s much harder for them to be found.

Google has a webform for requests to remove personal information from their searches.
You can access it here.

Yahoo has a webform for requests to remove personal information from their searches.
You can access it here. 

Bing has a webform for requests to remove personal information from their searches.
You can access it here.

For all the search engine sites you will need to give:

  • Your name
  • Your country of residence
  • An email address
  • Proof of who you are. Most likely a photo of your ID (this could be a passport, driving licence, or any other form of ID)
  • The URLs of the pages that you want removed
  • The reason why you want it removed

When contacting any of the agencies, we would suggest saying something like; ‘I would like this page taken down as it contains personal information about me. I was reported missing and an appeal was shared but I don’t want my name and photo to be available online any more. This could cause problems for me in the future and the information is no longer relevant.’


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