Internet privacy is a growing issue around the world as more people share their personal data online.
With more people online than ever before and data breaches becoming more commonplace, governments have begun to address the issue with new laws to protect their citizens’ privacy on the Internet. Which countries have done the most to improve their citizens’ Internet and data privacy, and which countries leave their citizens vulnerable with barely any data protection in place? To answer this, the Stevens Institute of Technology conducted an analysis to find the countries with the best data protection and privacy and the countries that are lacking data privacy laws. The countries were ranked from best to worst using data collected from the 2022 Freedom on the Net report, an annual study that scores 70 countries around the world on their level of Internet freedom by assessing each country’s barriers to access, limits on content, and violations of Internet users’ rights. For the purpose of ranking the countries on Internet privacy, we focused on the scores the 70 countries earned in the “Violations of User Rights” portion of the report, which focused on Internet users’ rights and the Internet privacy laws each country has in place. Our team compared the 2022 scores to the scores earned in 2016 to determine which governments have been working to improve their countries’ Internet privacy for their citizens as well as the governments that have been increasing Internet restrictions. Why the year 2016? That was the year the EU began to implement the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which has since been regarded as a gold standard for data protection laws all over the world. Explore the map below to see which countries around the world are doing the best to protect their citizens’ privacy on the Internet.
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Which Country Has the Best Internet Privacy?
The country with the best Internet privacy is Estonia, with a score of 37 out of a total of 40 points. Estonia earned the most points possible for six of the eight factors, and the country has an Internet freedom level of “Free.” Estonia has strong Internet privacy laws that protect personal information, does not have an intrusive government surveillance system, and does not prosecute or attack citizens for their online activities. Estonia also ranks third in the world for their commitment to cybersecurity.
Below are the ten countries that were determined to have the best Internet privacy policies and legislation in place and strive to protect data security and privacy on the Internet.
The 10 Countries With the Best Internet Privacy Protection and Policies
- Costa Rica
- South Africa
- United Kingdom
Which Country Has the Worst Internet Privacy?
The country with the worst Internet privacy in the world is China, who earned the lowest possible score for all eight of the Internet privacy factors considered. China was the only country to earn a total of zero points. China’s level of Internet freedom is considered to be “Not Free,” as the country takes an authoritarian approach to privacy on the Internet including numerous laws that limit what citizens can access and the possibility of fines or imprisonment for online activities. Internet users in China have their online activities monitored, and anonymous communications are severely limited. Not only is mass online surveillance an issue in China, but it leaves the citizens’ personal information vulnerable to cyberattacks and major data breaches.
The 10 Countries With the Worst Internet Privacy Protection and Policies
- Saudi Arabia
What Is the General Data Protection Regulation?
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a law that was drafted and passed by the European Union (EU) and is considered to be the toughest Internet privacy and security law in the world. The data privacy law began being implemented by EU countries in 2016, and the regulation was put into full effect in May 2018. This law imposes obligations on organizations anywhere in the world as long as the data they are targeting belongs to people in the EU. The GDPR has since been regarded as a gold standard for data protection laws as countries around the world have begun implementing their own data protection legislation and Internet privacy laws.
What kind of college degree should someone earn if they are interested in working in the field of Internet privacy, data protection, and cybersecurity? Earning a master’s degree in computer science is one option for those looking to launch an exciting career working in the Internet privacy and security field. That degree could even one day lead to a career protecting Internet privacy and data for your own country!
The following 70 countries were ranked from best to worst for their Internet privacy based on how well they scored on the eight factors used for the “Violations of User Rights” category of the 2022 Freedom on the Net report. These eight factors focus on Internet users’ rights and the legislation in place to protect Internet privacy and data. Each factor was assigned a set number of points that can be earned, with a score of 0 being the worst for Internet privacy. The final score is out of a total of 40, the most points that can be earned across all eight factors.
Each country’s change in total score since the 2016 report was also included to determine which have improved or declined Internet privacy and data protection since the EU began implementing the GDPR in 2016.
The Eight Factors and the Points Each Is Worth
|1. Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the Internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence? [0-6]|
2. Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? [0-4]
3. Are individuals penalized for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? [0-6]
4. Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption? [0-4]
5. Does state surveillance of Internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy? [0-6]
6. Does monitoring and collection of user data by service providers and other technology companies infringe on users’ right to privacy? [0-6]
7. Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in relation to their online activities? [0-5]
8. Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack? [0-3]
Countries Ranked by Internet Privacy, From Best to Worst
|Country||1 (0-6)||2 (0-4)||3 (0-6)||4 (0-4)||5 (0-6)||6 (0-6)||7 (0-5)||8 (0-3)||Final Score (Out of 40)||Change in Score Since 2016||Internet Freedom Level|
|24||South Korea||3||2||3||3||2||3||3||2||21||-1||Partly Free|
|28||The Gambia||3||1||4||2||2||1||4||3||20||7||Partly Free|
|41||Sri Lanka||2||1||3||2||2||3||3||1||17||-5||Partly Free|
|59||United Arab Emirates||0||0||2||1||0||0||2||2||7||-1||Not Free|
|66||Saudi Arabia||0||0||0||1||0||1||1||1||4||-2||Not Free|
|Countries With the Biggest Declines in Internet Privacy||Change in Score Since 2016|
|Countries With the Biggest Improvements in Internet Privacy||Change in Score Since 2016|
- For countries with tied final scores, preference was given to the one with the biggest improvement in score; if not applicable, then the country with the smallest decline in score took preference.
- The Internet Freedom Level is based on the country’s overall Freedom on the Net score, which uses a scale of 0 (least free) to 100 (most free). In addition to the Violations of User Rights (40 points), it also includes Obstacles to Access (25 points) and Limits on Content (35 points).