One year ago, the European Union’s court of justice took a major decision on the protection of individuals on the internet. Since May 13th last year, search engines have been obliged to respect the so-called “Right to be forgotten“. According to this right, and under certain conditions, web users can now ask for information about them to be “delisted”.
This decision sparked numerous debates. Some people claim that it brings the protection of privacy into conflict with the public’s right to information. “At Reputation VIP, we believe that the two are compatible, which is the reason why we immediately reacted by creating Forget.me, a site that allows users to exercise their right to be forgotten efficiently and easily,” explains Bertrand Girin, President of Reputation VIP.
Since the Forget.me site was opened on June 24 last year, we have sent 61,753 URLs to Google. This has allowed us to compile numerous statistics about the right to be forgotten and the manner in which Google and Bing go about managing it. One year on, we wanted to take stock of the short history of the right to be forgotten.
The milestones of the right to be forgotten
The number of requests received by Google
In the first three months, Google received an average of 1,500 requests per day. In the last three months, the search engine received an average of 500 requests per day. After the initial spurt, a cruising speed of about 500 requests per day has been reached, representing about 180,000 requests per year. The right to be forgotten addresses a genuine need!
The latest statistics of the right to be forgotten
- Google has gradually shortened the time taken to process requests
The effect of the resources deployed by Google can be felt, because requests are processed more quickly than previously. When Google first made its form available, it took 56 days to process a request. By March, this time had been cut to just 16 days.
- Google refuses 70% of requests
The rate of refusal has gradually stabilised at around 70%, and has been perfectly stable since January. It should be noted that it has increased sharply since the outset, because only 43% of requests were rejected in June last year.
- Types of requests: invasion of privacy remains far ahead
The trends observed by Reputation VIP all year long have been confirmed. The “Invasion of privacy” category, which includes the disclosure of private addresses and religious or political opinions against a person’s will, has gained two points, increasing from 57% to 59%.
- Links with professional activity remain the most frequent reason for rejections
Google appears to be particularly reticent when a URL is related to a person’s professional activity. It should be noted that the category “Does not refer to a physical person” has gained one point, so we can conclude that businesses are increasingly concerned about their image on Google.
- The trend has been confirmed: media sites are relatively unaffected, while delisting mostly applies to social media.
It is worth noting that the press is largely unaffected by requests for the right to be forgotten, representing only 3.3% of requests. And Wikipedia only accounts for 0.2% of requests.
Most requests concentrate on other types of sites. One quarter of requests concern social media and blogs. This fact can often be explained by a poor understanding of the rules applying to confidentiality, posts that are subsequently regretted or questions of slander between private individuals.
Directories account for almost 15% of requests. Such requests are made by people who do not want private data, such as their address or telephone number, to be published on the internet.
Only 0.4% of URLs in the “Press sites” category have been delisted. Wikipedia only accounts for 0.1% of delistings. 7% of sites are delisted in the social networks category, and only 1.2% in the blogs category.
- The UK and Germany represent more than 50% of requests.
The 15 countries that make the most requests for the right to be forgotten are shown below.
- And what about Bing?
Bing published its form on July 16th, two months after Google, which posted its form on 29 May. Forget.me has sent 4,386 URLs to Bing since July 23th, which was the date when Forget.me became compatible with Bing.
Over the same period, Forget.me sent 51,861 URLs to Google. So Bing represents 8% of the URLs sent from Forget.me since July 23th. Note that, on average, users send fewer URLs per request to Bing: 3.1 URLs per request on Bing, and 6.5 on Google.
- Invasion of privacy: the most frequent type of request on Bing
The “Invasion of privacy” category accounts for 67% of requests on Bing, which is even higher than on Google (almost 59%).
On July 11th last year, Google’s Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond, voiced his disagreement with the EU ruling in the Figaro newspaper, claiming that a “solid debate is essential, because not a single search engine has found a perfect and immediate solution.” Bertrand Girin reacted to the statement by adding that, “one year on, the debate is still far from over. The number of requests regarding privacy is huge, a fact that means simple cases have become more common and that everyone has a right to be forgotten. In view of the number of rejections (70%), it seems right to ask how people who make requests that are dismissed by the search engines can take recourse. It is a subject that deserves the attention of our lawmakers, as part of Europe-wide regulations on the protection of personal data. ”
 Survey based on 32,798 URLs sent to Google by Forget.me from four European countries: France, the UK, Germany and Spain