The ICO exists to empower you through information.

Data protection law allows you to ask online search engines to delete internet search results containing your personal data (in some cases). This is the right to erasure, also known as the ‘right to be forgotten’.

If searching your name through a search engine brings back a result containing information about you, and the information in that link is having a negative effect on your privacy, you can ask the search provider to stop it from appearing in future searches.

Search providers don’t have to remove the link, but they must consider your request. They will decide whether to remove it based on what you have told them and whether they think there is a public interest in it remaining available. It is good practice for search providers to give you the reasons why they won’t remove the link.

Contacting the search engine provider

You have a right to ask search engines to take down an internet search result provided that:

  • the search is made against your name, and
  • the search result is affecting your privacy rights significantly.

Some search providers have produced forms to help you ask them to delete links. Try to use these forms where possible and make sure you give all the information you are asked for. Not using the right form, or not giving the right information, could mean your request is delayed or rejected.

Contacting us

If the search provider refuses to remove a link, you can report your concern to us.

We will look at whether the information in the link breaches the data protection principles, for example because it is incorrect, irrelevant, or out of date or provides a misleading picture of you. We will also look at whether the public interest in having access to the link outweighs any negative effect it is having on you. Where we think it is appropriate, we will inform the search provider that the results should be removed.

What we will consider

We will not ask the search engine to take down a result just because you object to it.  Likewise, we will not agree that a search engine can continue to return results just because the original source site had lawfully published them.

We have developed a list of factors we will take into account, as follows.

  • Does the search result relate to a natural person – ie an individual - and does it come up against a search on the individual’s name?

  • Does the individual play a role in public life?

  • Is the subject of the search result a child?

  • Is the data accurate?

  • Does the data relate to the individual’s working life?

  • Does the search result link to information that apparently constitutes hate speech, slander, libel or similarly offensive content targeted at the complainant?

  • Is the information “special category data” as defined in data protection law, for example data regarding your health or religious beliefs?
  • Is the data up to date? Is it being made available for longer than necessary?

  • Is the data processing causing prejudice to the individual? Is it having a disproportionately negative impact on the individual’s privacy?

  • Does the search result link to information that puts the individual at risk?

  • On what basis was the information published originally?

  • Was the original content published in a journalistic context?

  • Does the publisher of the data have a legal power – or a legal obligation – to make the personal data publicly available?

  • Does the data relate to a criminal offence?

  • How serious was the offence, how long ago the conviction took place and whether the sentence is now spent?

The list above is not exhaustive and we will be prepared to take other factors into account.

For more information about these factors, please see our Search result delisting criteria guidance.

Other action you can take

Even if search providers remove a link, they cannot delete the information from the webpage it is published on, or take the webpage off the internet. To have the information removed completely, you will have to ask the webmaster for the website in question. Again, though, the webmaster won’t necessarily have to take the information down just because you object to it.