With the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, the European Union set a milestone in the history of data protection that has received great international recognition. With the aim of achieving a common high level of data protection, rules for the protection of personal information have been standardized for the entire European Union for the first time. In a growing digitized world, in which theoretically every activity can be tracked and personal data generates high financial profits, the possibilities of individuals to control their personal information are limited. At this point, the regulation has created a dense network of rights and obligations that give consumers power and control over their data back.
heyData knows data protection from its daily work with companies. Therefore, three years after the introduction of the GDPR, we wanted to use this study to find out how close the European countries have come when it comes to the level of data protection and to discover which points still need improvement. To do this, we examined the majority of the EU member states, Norway, which also implemented the EU GDPR, and the United Kingdom, in which the regulation was in effect until Brexit.
The study focuses on five overarching categories, which we have evaluated in 24 sub-points using data and statistics from well-known sources, such as the European Commission or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. A comparison of the EU countries was made possible by a simple mathematical point system. The result is the following data protection ranking, which shows the nations with the actually highest data protection level - Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands - at the top.
Data Protection Violations
% Increase in Data Protection Violations During Pandemic
Data Protection Strategy
Compulsory Voluntary Training
Tracking and Scanning Services
Fear of Data Abuse
Authority Over Data
The aim of the study is to evaluate the efficiency of data protection measures as well as the data protection competence of consumers in Europe and to compare them at national level. The objects of investigation are all member states of the European Union (with exceptions) as well as the United Kingdom and Norway.
Bulgaria, Croatia, Malta, Portugal, Cyprus, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia had to be excluded from the study due to insufficient data and to enable a fair comparison between all nations.
For the study, all of the named nations were evaluated in the five research fields “Legal Regulations”, “Companies”, “Private Individuals”, “Data Protection Competence” and “Social Mood”. A total of 24 influencing factors contributed to the final result of the study. All influencing factors were selected based on their informative value in relation to the performance of data protection measures or the data protection competence of consumers.
The result is a ranking of the pioneering nations in terms of data protection. The study ended on May 15, 2021.
A complete presentation of the methodology with all definitions, data and sources can be found here (German version, English version)