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Wendy Boswell

Did you delete those Google images? Think again

By February 23, 2006

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Over at Search Engine Journal, there's an interesting piece titled Shelf Life of Pictures on Google; apparently, Google never, ever, nope, never truly deletes your pictures that YOU think that you've deleted on their various databases. More from Search Engine Journal:
"Google has a trend of not deleting content which is uploaded to their databases via Blogger, GMail, Caching or even photo uploads."
And then more via Valley Wag:
"A tipster says, "When you delete a photo from your [Blogger] blog, it disappears from your blog. But it does not disappear from photos1.blogger.com, and Google/Blogger says there is NO WAY WHATSOEVER to delete any photo you have ever uploaded that Blogger has stored there." Don't worry, your photo named "elephant_spank_inferno.jpg" is probably too obscure to show up."
Want to test this theory? Check out this search on the main Google search, site:photos1.blogger.com, or site:photos1.blogger.com on Google Images.

Now, I did a bit of sleuthing (I've always wanted to use the word "sleuthing" in a sentence), and here's what I found:

from Google Image Search Help: "To remove a copyrighted image from Google's Image Search, please visit our Remove Content page. Here you will find instructions on what to do or how to contact us regarding copyrighted images that need to be removed."

Okay, so let's go to the Remove an image from Google's Image Search: " To remove an image from Google's image index, add a robots.txt file to the root of the server. (If you can't put it in the server root, you can put it at directory level.) Example: If you want Google to exclude the dogs.jpg image that appears on your site at www.yoursite.com/images/dogs.jpg, create a page at www.yoursite.com/robots.txt and add the following text:

  • User-agent: Googlebot-Image
  • Disallow: /images/dogs.jpg
...Doing this and submitting via the automatic URL removal system will cause a temporary, 180 day removal of the directories specified in your robots.txt file from the Google index, regardless of whether you remove the robots.txt file after processing your request. (Keeping the robots.txt file at the same level would require you to return to the URL removal system every 180 days to reissue the removal.)"

Got that? Yeah, me too. These might be simple directions for the geeks among us (and I would proudly count myself in that number!), but for most people, this is like reading Greek. I wouldn't say that images would be easy to delete from Google, or for that matter, most search engines. And every 180 days, yikes.

To be fair, Google kicks some serious image booty when it needs to. I found this cease and desist order, a German complaint of unlawful image search result that was submitted and acted upon on February 10, 2006, VERY quickly.


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June 17, 2008 at 5:52 am
(1) D1 says:

hey…i tried as you said about geting information/images of google, but it dosnt work like & i aint that smart with this, but there is aye lot of information of me and other people and i really need to get it off google & all and quicky like, so what should i do like?

November 21, 2008 at 8:33 pm
(2) Leila says:

Hi Wendy,

MSN live search is indexing a photo that is no longer on my site. What is even worse is that it is a maternity wedding dress that appears under the search terms “Mexican Wedding Dress.” I never called it that when it was on my site. I makes my site appear racist. I have e-mailed them several times, but they have not responded? Do you have any idea about what I should do?

April 25, 2009 at 9:44 pm
(3) kk says:

u, well i dont know i really badly need to get my pics off google

December 31, 2009 at 11:33 am
(4) Star18 says:

there is a picture up on google taken from my facebook account. i deleted it from facebook and told facebook team to delete it from google using the removal tool. but facebook said they cant do anything. i requested the removal from google but they keep denying my request could you help please.

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