Right to be Forgotten

On May 13, 2014 the EU Court of Justice ruled that individuals have the right to request search engines (like Google, Bing or Yahoo!) to remove certain search results about them. Somehow, this ruling has come to be known under the inapt but sticky banner "the right to be forgotten", which has left some confused about the reach and implications of the actual "removal" that EU citizens can request.

Far from erasing yourself from the Internet, what the ruling has made possible for EU citizens is to request specific URLs to not come up in, say Google's results, when typing their name as the search query. No actual information is being removed from the Internet; no actual URLs are being removed from the Internet; the removal of the search result only applies to queries made on any of the European versions of Google (so a search made outside of the EU remains unaffected); and finally, any removal of search results will only apply to a query of the individual's name - the result will still show up when querying other relevant search terms.

This limited scope has not dissuaded EU citizens from requesting search removals: within a year time, Google had received over a quarter million requests from citizens of 32 European countries. 

Currently (September 2015) Europeans have collectively filed over 315K removal requests, with well over a million URLs involved (a removal request can involve multiple URLs).

Page Title
Total requests
Total URLs
EU +43153501115033

See the full table here.

Measuring requests in absolute numbers, France tops the list with over 65K requests, followed closely by Germany. Comparing the number of requests per capita, shows another ranking: Liechtenstein, Estonia and the Netherlands now rank highest.

With the archived versions of previous reports it's been possible to create somewhat of a timeline -- note though that these snapshots were not taken at regular intervals. The linegraph below shows the increase in the total number of removal requests since October 2014 (first available snapshot). It also shows the calculated average new requests for each period -- this calculation equalizes the uneven number of days between the snapshots and shows the average "growth rate" during each period. 

Although this proxy for the growth rate has been declining overall (meaning new removal requests are getting filed at a slower rate), the rate for the last couple of weeks is showing a new peak: since the last week of August 2015 over 17,000 new requests were filed. 

Total requests received by Google between May 2014 and September 2015

Source: Google

Total requests per 1,000,000 citizens

Total removal requests for every 1,000,000 citizens for each country. The graph is sorted with countries with highest total requests left. Source: Google

Removal requests for all EU +4 countries over time

There are significant differences between the European countries in how many URLs actually get removed by Google. While some countries get close to half of all requested URLs removed, others have close to 75% rejected. Because a removal request can include any number of URLs, you might wonder if the countries with higher percentages of URL removal requests rejected perhaps also have more URLs involved per removal request. This does not seem to be the case (although these averages might still hide a correlation between the two). Google's evaluation process is not completely transparent, so it is hard to verify if Bulgarians indeed find it so much harder than Norwegians to hand in satisfactory requests.

URL removal requests as processed by Google 

Source: Google.

Removal requests in absolute numbers

Showing the number of removal requests Google has received per country. Source: Google.

Removal requests per capita

Showing the number of removal requests Google has received per country, per 1,000,000 citizens. Source: Google.

Table sorted by highest per capita requests. Click any column header to sort. Source: Google.

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