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Europeans Value Privacy: 1M+ "Right to Be Forgotten" Requests Submitted to Google & Microsoft

Surfshark has released a study on the “right to be forgotten” requests submitted to Google and Microsoft Bing from 2015 to 2021. The “right to be forgotten” allows individuals to request the removal of queries related to their name from European search engine result pages. Of the 1 million requests submitted, half were from Western European countries, with France submitting the most requests. Estonia had the highest request density, followed by France and the Netherlands. The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a 30% increase in “right to be forgotten” cases in 2020.


The requests widely vary in the information about requesters contained in the web pages, from personal and professional information to connections with criminal activity. In total, 1,066,274 “right to be forgotten” or “right to erasure” requests were submitted to Google and Bing, with the majority of requests (95.8%) delivered to Google.


“Right to be forgotten” requests gradually decreased after 2015, but cases rose by nearly 30% in 2020, totaling 161.3k. In 2021, there was an additional 15% increase, with an all-time high of 185.7k requests across the analyzed countries.


France submitted the most requests between 2015 and 2021, followed by Germany and the UK. Estonia had the highest request density, while Bulgaria submitted the least requests per 10k people.


Around 1 in 10 web page delisting requests were crime-related, while around 6% contained personal information such as home address and contact information. 4,009,729 web pages were included in the requests submitted to Google, with nearly half not classifiable into a specific category.


Surfshark’s Privacy Counsel, Gabriele Kaveckyte, suggests that the rise in “right to be forgotten” requests in 2020 may be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which encouraged people to review their online privacy as many daily activities became virtual. The study highlights the importance of GDPR enforcement and online privacy as a fundamental human right.


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