The European Commission proposes more data regulation to drive deregulation


Europe’s data economy ambitions haven’t exactly set the heather on fire to date. The European Commission’s latest plans for more jaw-jaw isn’t likely to change that.

talking-guys-1428187European Union (EU) ambitions to have build a ‘data economy’ aren’t coming to pass, so the European Commission has decided that what’s needed for Europe is more talking among member states.

There’s a lot at stake here. The EU estimates that the data economy was worth €272 billion in 2015 (annual growth of 5.6%) and could employ 7.4 million people by 2020.

But this is being held back by what that Commission calls the “requirements of national data localisation that constrain the entire EU data market”.

But rather than take legislative action to undo the roadblocks to a Digital Single Market, the Commission has decided that what’s needed is another round of consultation and talking shops. To that end, it says it intends to:

  • Engage in structured dialogues with Member States and stakeholders to discuss the proportionality of data localisation restrictions. The goal is also to collect further evidence on the nature of these restrictions and their impact on businesses, especially SMEs and startups, and public sector organisations.
  • Launch, where needed and appropriate, enforcement actions and, if necessary, take further initiatives to address unjustified or disproportionate data location restrictions.

It also wants to hear from interested parties views on possible policy and legal responses regarding:

  • Data access and transfer, on the basis that wide use of non-personal machine-generated data can lead to great innovations, startups and new business models born in the EU.
  • Liability related to data-based products and services, on the basis that the current EU liability rules are not adapted to today’s digital, data-driven products and services.
  • Data portability, on the basis that portability of non-personal data is currently complicated, for example, when a business wants to move large amounts of company data from one cloud service provider to another.

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said:

Data should be able to flow freely between locations, across borders and within a single data space. In Europe, data flow and data access are often held up by localisation rules or other technical and legal barriers. If we want our data economy to produce growth and jobs, data needs to be used. But to be used, it also needs to be available and analysed. We need a coordinated and pan-European approach to make the most of data opportunities, building on strong EU rules to protect personal data and privacy.

Cookie time

The Commission has also proposed new rules that would curb how the likes of  Google and Facebook track users to deliver targeted ads.  Rules are being proposed that would require users to consent actively to the use of cookies. Users would have to choose whether to allow or reject the tracking for advertising purposes before continuing with the installation of new software. This wouldn’t mean that users would no longer see online ads, but it would make it far more difficult for advertisers to personalise what ones are seen.

Needless to say online advertisers are unlikely to be happy. For the Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe, CEO Townsend Feehan said the Commission had thrown away a great opportunity to repeal outdated cookie laws in favor of introducing more regulation:

While the Commission finally acknowledged the important role of advertising for funding free content online, it does so at the same time as presenting a law that as a practical matter would undeniably damage the advertising business model – without achieving any real benefits for users from a privacy and data protection point of view.

People who thought cookie banners were annoying, will be disappointed to hear that things won’t get better. Without significant improvements to the proposed text, users would have to actively change the settings of every single device and app they use, and more actively deal with constant requests for permission for the use of harmless cookies when visiting websites and using other digital services.

We hope the co-legislators will assess this proposal on the merits and take good account of constructive industry suggestions that would better protect user privacy, while putting less of a burden on their time, attention and patience.

My take

It’s the European Commission – you need more regulation in order to have a less regulated environment! Feehan shouldn’t hold her breath…


For a deeper analysis of this latest move by the European Commission, check out the full story at diginomica/government

Image credit - Marchesini