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Europe dabbles with big data protectionism

The European Commission seems to think that if it improves data sharing within the bloc, that might give it a better shot at taking on US big tech.

The EC unveiled its cunning plan for digital domination back in February of this year and, with its customary urgency, has just got around to detailing its first concrete component. It’s called the Data Governance Act and, on the surface, it’s a standard piece of EU harmonization. Just as with trade, immigration, etc, the thinking is that if the barriers separating member states are lowered, then good things will follow.

“We are defining today a truly European approach to data sharing,” said Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton. “Our new regulation will enable trust and facilitate the flow of data across sectors and member States while putting all those who generate data in the driving seat. With the ever-growing role of industrial data in our economy, Europe needs an open yet sovereign single market for data. Flanked by the right investments and key infrastructures, our regulation will help Europe become the world’s number one data continent.”

“You don’t have to share all data,” said Executive Vice-President for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager. “But if you do and data is sensitive you should be able to do in a manner where data can be trusted and protected. We want to give business and citizens the tools to stay in control of data. And to build trust that data is handled in line with European values and fundamental rights.”

It shows rare self-awareness that Vestager should feel the need to start her statement that there will be no coercion, this time. Perhaps that’s because she’s realised that trust is an important prerequisite of getting people to share data effectively. The timing isn’t great, however, as we’re in the middle of a period of unprecedented state intervention in the lives of individuals. If the EC really wants to increase trust, promising to keep its hands off everyone’s data would be a great start.

Here’s their pitch in full.


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