How the European data strategy is taking shape

Lucas Boncourt for Localtis

The European data strategy presented by the European Commission in February 2020 took a first step on Wednesday April 6, 2022 with the adoption of the Data Governance Act by the European Parliament. The European strategy aims to create “a single European data market, open but sovereign”, summarized Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, on February 23, 2022. Its ambition is to “unleash the enormous potential of innovation based on data” without falling into the errors of the practices of the major American platforms. “Companies, public administrations and individuals in Europe will have control of the data they generate”, assures the Commission.

Thematic data spaces

The act on data governance, positioned on the structuring of the European data market, will create “common European data spaces” on health, the environment, energy, agriculture, mobility, finance, manufacturing, public administration, skills or even culture. It should be specified immediately that this is not open data but voluntary sharing of data between players in the same sector, with data potentially covered by trade secrets, protected by intellectual property rights or even personal data. In particular, the Commission wants to create “mechanisms to facilitate the reuse of certain public sector data which cannot be made available as open data”. The purpose of these thematic spaces is to create fertile ground for the emergence of European big data and artificial intelligence champions to solve the major challenges of the moment.

Measuring the externalities of “e-mobility”

The progress of these spaces was detailed by the Commission on February 23, 2022. On mobility, for example, the ambition is as much to develop the interoperability of transport data between national platforms as to facilitate the sharing of data on related sectors (environment, health, etc.), to better measure the externalities of “the ‘e-mobility’. The “Green Deal Data Space” will update the Inspire directive with particular emphasis on access to geospatial data and on the data necessary to achieve European objectives in terms of biodiversity, the circular economy or adaptation to climate change. In terms of public administration, the aim is to strengthen access to national legislation, to public contracts, and to facilitate the sharing of data in the field of security.

Promoting data altruism

The data governance act will also create “data intermediaries” between producers and reusers of data. Compiling data from private and public sources, these trusted actors will guarantee data reliability, compliance with European data protection rules and equal access for European actors. “This role of intermediary could be exercised by local authorities”, underlines Simon Chignard, open data expert who worked for Etalab, before noting that “the Commission has not yet considered this scenario”. Another interesting provision for communities, the promotion of “data altruism”, to facilitate the voluntary sharing of data of general interest by citizens and businesses.

Release data from connected objects

In parallel with the regulation on data governance, the “Data Act” began its journey within the European institutions. This text intends to “remove obstacles to access to data” to “create value” and more particularly targets connected objects. The Commission intends to fight against the confinement of users of connected objects to a proprietary solution, provide them with guarantees on the use of their data and promote new uses by allowing third parties to access aggregated data. It will also create a right to data portability between cloud computing services while prohibiting data transfers to countries outside the European Union.

Right to requisition private data

The “Data Act” also wants to create a right of requisition for the administrations on the data of private actors in the event of force majeure. Thus, if a new confinement were to intervene, a community would have the possibility of obtaining free geolocation data from mobile phones to follow the movements of the population. “Be careful, the requisition is limited to crisis situations, such as a flood or a fire and only intervenes after the occurrence of the event”, warns Simon Chignard. In other words, it is not a question of establishing access to data of territorial interest for private actors as the local authorities would like. Moreover, it is in particular because the European experts would have ticked on this free access to the data of private actors that the text would have fallen behind today.

A proliferation of European texts on data

The “Data Act” and the “Data Governance Act” are only part of the European texts aimed at regulating data exchanges. The PSI directive, renamed the open data directive, should thus soon be revised to include a list of strategic data, on the French model of the public data service, which the Member States will have to distribute via APIs. The Digital Services Act (DSA) intends to regulate content published on the internet and make ranking algorithms more transparent. The Digital Markets Act (DMA) targets the anti-competitive practices of large platforms. We will also mention the regulations being defined on health data (European Health Data Space Regulation), artificial intelligence (Artificial Intelligence Regulation) and that on the connected vehicle ((Vehicle Data). Finally, to be complete, it is also necessary mention the ePrivacy directive, the GDPR and the Privacy Shield on data transfers outside the European Union.

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How the European data strategy is taking shape

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