In the age of digital services, social media and apps, it seems like data usage, sharing, gathering and breach scandals happen almost on a daily basis. Data usage by IT companies in general has become a very touchy topic. Despite that, the EU wants to bring some big changes in the near future.
Recently the European Commission (EC) has proposed the creation of a single data market in the European Union (EU). The EC views this as a way to challenge the dominance of US tech giants. It hopes that the market will create more opportunities and encourage European companies to work together by sharing data and improving their services at a faster rate.
The “European data space” will allow users, startups, SMBs, enterprises, institutions and researchers to share and use data within the EU in a simplified manner. The idea follows the principle of free movement of people and goods that is the very basis of the EU. It now extends to the free movement of data within the EU.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that anyone and everyone will have access to your emails or social media posts. The proposal is for datasets – i.e. a bunch of anonymous data which helps companies analyze usage, statistics, consumer behavior and so on. The EC also envisions the creation of smaller, niche data markets which cater to specific needs like health, mobility and so on.
Before all of that happens, the EC demands that clear rules “in particular privacy and data protection, as well as competition law”, should be set up and “fully respected”. The same goes for the rules for access and use of data which the EU wants to be “fair, practical and clear”. The EU will also invest in new standards, tools and infrastructure to store and process data and help the single data market.
Could all of this actually happen?
The short answer is “yes”, but the actual one is “it will take some time”. EU institutions generally aren’t the fastest movers out there. It often takes them a long time to draft, propose and finalize new legislations. The GDPR and the efforts to make all smartphones use the same battery charging standard are some of the more recent examples. It takes years to bring those legislations to actual use.
Finding a right balance between data usage, sharing and privacy and security will be a tough challenge. And it’s the most important piece in the puzzle as it will be vital for the consumers’ trust. Without it, the idea could be dead before becoming a reality.
“I want European businesses and our many SMEs to access this data and create value for Europeans — including by developing artificial intelligence applications”, says Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, quoted by TNW.
“Europe has everything it takes to lead the ‘big data‘ race, and preserve its technological sovereignty, industrial leadership and economic competitiveness to the benefit of European consumers”, Breton adds.
The EC wants the single data market to be a reality by 2030. This means it has 10 years to bring these promises to reality. That’s a very long time, especially in the world of technology. By then such a data market might not be needed anymore, at least in the version that is envisioned now. So, the legislators will have to be able to adapt to the changes as they continue to set this market up. It will be a tough challenge.