Blog | 29 July 2022

The Google Effect: Can I remove online articles about my convictions?

by Aoibhinn O'Sullivan, Employability Coach at Working Chance

Have you ever tried googling yourself? Lots of employers do a quick Google search on people who have applied to fill their vacancies. Many people know this, and take care over what is shared online or on social media. However, if you have a conviction that featured in the news, keeping these articles private can be out of your control.

If I didn’t hear back from jobs, I wasn’t sure if it was because they’d googled me. It stopped me from applying to jobs and closed me off from opening up to new people.

Working Chance client

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

Working Chance supports women with convictions to shape their own futures through support with their employability and help to find a meaningful job. And one of the first things we cover with clients during our employability programme is whether or not they are required to tell a potential employer about their conviction. Some convictions - especially when they took place a number of years ago - are protected under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. This act protects people with convictions from unfair discrimination, and is designed to help people move on with their lives.

Here’s how it works: most convictions become ‘spent’ after a certain period of time has passed, giving protection to those whose sentences are less than or equal to four years.

In theory at least, you won’t need to disclose your convictions for most job types, once your conviction is spent. It gives people the opportunity to start over, without previous mistakes impeding your chances.

Unfortunately, although the Rehabilitation of Offender's Act is designed to protect from your conviction showing on a DBS check or needing to disclose to an employer, it ultimately fails to protect against what is said online.

Googling yourself

A quick Google search can bring up articles talking about convictions, and the circumstances surrounding them. Sometimes this is in a sensationalist way, and doesn't always reflect the truth. Anyone with access to the internet can find this out with a click of a button.

Clients tell us that this can make you feel that there is no such thing as confidentiality or privacy, as prospective employers may look you up online before they've even selected you for an interview. It also creates an unfair balance of information provided between you and other candidates. This doesn't just affect your prospects of a job, but it can also affect new friendships, new relationships and even your personal life.

Mia* expressed her disappointment about articles about her conviction being online. She received her conviction in 2015 and it has since become spent. However, the articles written about her are still available on Google which has affected her family and relationships.

"My daughter’s new boyfriend's family found out about my conviction through Google and asked him to stop seeing her. It not only affects my life, but it's affecting my family. I'm still made to feel ashamed for a mistake I made over 7 years ago."

For Jade*, it was the incorrect information that she struggled with the most.

"They said I was convicted of an offence that was actually thrown out in court. The information wasn't even correct, but they were still allowed to publish it."

I'm still made to feel ashamed for a mistake I made over 7 years ago.

Working Chance client

Right to be forgotten

There are ways to try and remove online articles about you. Some people have applied to change their surname to prevent people from googling them.

Others choose to take steps to reclaim the narrative: counteracting negative internet searches by building positive content on channels like interactive LinkedIn or, publishing blogs and other written content on websites to burying negative Google results deeper down the page.

There is also the ‘Right to be Forgotten’. You can go to Google directly and request for articles to be removed. The online form is available here. This can take some time as you’ll need to show:

  1. Proof of your identity
  2. URL links for each article you’d like to be removed
  3. An explanation as to why this information is no longer ‘relevant’ or otherwise ‘inappropriate’

In 2015, Eva sent a request for online articles about her conviction to be removed from Google, but her application was initially refused. We hear this often: according to Google, 45% of applications to be forgotten are successful. This year, Eva applied again using Unlock’s search engine removal request template. She was successful and the articles were removed within 36 hours.

She received a job offer two weeks later.

"I tried to make my application to Google as personalised as possible. I explained how each link was hindering my life, and how in the time since my application I could show that I hadn’t reoffended, and these links were hindering my ability to achieve full rehabilitation.

“I had been applying for jobs for years, 98% of my applications got no response even though I could see employers were viewing my application. For anyone in the same boat as me, I would say don’t give up, don’t be afraid to reach out to them again, even if you got rejected like me.”

Getting into employment

We can't say for sure that removing online articles about your conviction helps you to find employment. However, we recognise that it’s important for people to feel that they have control of over the information about them that is available online.

Whether or not you decide to disclose your convictions that you don’t legally need to, that should be up to you and not up to a Google search. If you’re struggling to find employment due to your conviction, get in touch using the form below, and one of our friendly team will contact you. We provide support with employment skills such as disclosing effectively to an employer, interview skills and CV writing.

*clients’ names have been changed to protect their identity.

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