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France leads in “right to be forgotten” requests

France submitted more than a quarter of over 155,000 “right to be forgotten” requests filed in 2022 by 32 countries to Google and Microsoft.

Germany and the UK followed the 43,000 French requests, numbering at 24,000 and 16,000 requests respectively, according to research from Surfshark. Italy and Spain were next, with 12,000 and 11,000 requests.

The “right to be forgotten,” also known as the “right to erasure,” is part of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and allows users to request the deletion of personal data or removal from search engine results.

France, along with Sweden, also leads in per capita requests, with seven requests made per 10,000 people in each country in 2022. Liechtenstein and Estonia followed closely with six reports per 10,000 people. Iceland, Norway, and the Netherlands submitted five.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Czechia, and Slovakia submitted less than one such request per 10,000, which could indicate a “potential lack of information and awareness on the issue,” Surfshark said. Poland, Portugal, and Greece each submitted around one request.

Overall, there were fewer requests made in 2022 than the year before, with a 16% decrease when compared to 2021, the study showed. “The decline was predominantly driven by a drop in the number of requests submitted to Google,” Surfshark said.

Microsoft observed a slight increase in requests, but this is not reflected in overall statistics, as the company accounted for only 4% of the combined total of reports it received together with Google in 2022. The decrease was recorded in 28 out of 32 analyzed countries, Surfshark said.

The “right to be forgotten” requests contained 600,000 URLs in 2022, averaging four links per request. According to research, Google delisted 56% of the reported URLs, while Microsoft delisted 50%.

“The reasons for not delisting the requested URLs from search engines vary and include technical issues as well as the strong public interest and right to access the information online,” Surfshark said.

Sensitive personal information had the highest percentage of delisting, and political information had the lowest delisting rate. The study covered 27 EU member states plus Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, and the UK.

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