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Digital Single Market IW News 10. January 2017

Europe, soon a single data market?

Data is the currency of the digital age. In order to take full advantage of the potential of the European data economy, the European Commission wishes to further harmonize data rights. This is overdue in order not to lose the connection to the USA completely.

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The European Commission has set new benchmarks for the protection of personal data with the EU Data Protection Regulation. In a communication released today, the Commission is also targeting non-personal data such as production data: a coordinated approach is intended to promote the European data economy.

The communication does not yet contain specific legal proposals. However, it can be understood as a preliminary step towards a legal regulation. The Commission addresses the following topics:

  • The digital single market should grow to be a single European data space. Data should flow across national borders. The Commission wants to discuss national rules such as the German Data Retention Law with Member States and other stakeholders. Unjustified and disproportionate rules will be abolished.
  • The Commission also wants companies to voluntarily share more data with each other. This applies mainly data generated by machines, sensors or processes – which are largely unregulated so far – and thus directly to the German industry. Incentives to share data should be set in a way that innovation and competition will increase. There will be no obligation to share data, however.
  • Data portability and interoperability, e.g. between cloud service providers, should be increased. Other legal aspects, such as liability for damage caused by autonomous systems – like autonomous cars – , must also be revised according to the Commission.

The Commission's deliberations are long overdue. A European single data economy like in the USA bears several potentials. For example, start-ups and small companies could grow faster and scale-up across national boundaries more easily. In the EU, this is stifled by unclear, inconsistent and outdated regulations. This should change as quickly as possible.

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