Data Governance Act: Europe moves towards a sovereign data market


The Data Governance Act being prepared by the European Commission is a key element in creating a single data market aligned with European Union values and principles. It’s obvious the EU starts with a disadvantage in this area, but the technological developments still to come, in which the roll out of 5G and the Internet of Things will play a key role, make it clear there is still a long way to go, especially in the industrial field. 

The regulation, in the preparation phase and part of the Commission’s ambitious strategy for the Digital Transition, plans to create data intermediaries. Their role will be to ensure a model based on neutrality and transparency that encourages trust in the transfer of data. This has little to do with the current model, totally dominated by the data-processing practices of large U.S. data companies.  

These data intermediaries will not be able to exchange the data for their own benefit – no sales to third parties – and will have to meet strict standards. 

In addition, the Commission envisages the creation of European data spaces, made up of both technological infrastructures and governance mechanisms. The goal is to develop a secure and reliable environment for the exchange of information, both in the public and private sectors. 

Also created are what are being called ‘data altruism organizations’. Their role will be to develop the conditions for the exchange of data to benefit society as a whole in matters such as urban mobility, civil protection, or public health. These organizations cannot be for profit and must be registered and comply with strict transparency standards.

The opinion of the EADT on Data Governance Act

The European Association for Digital Transition has been involved in the public consultation process for the law. Beyond possible faults and improvements, we are looking at good news: the creation of a legal framework to shape an integrated data market for the entire EU, in accordance with our values. As the European Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, said last year: “Europe needs a single, open, sovereign market for data”. We believe that Europe needs powerful markets for better usage of data, safe from the practices of the large platforms, practically an oligopoly, who base their business model on the exclusive use of information.

Moreover, for the Association, in the twenty-first century data must be regulated with the same tools as other factors of production. Given that there is a market for land, labour, physical capital, and human capital, there should be a data market with transparent prices and uniformity for the factor of production.

In this proposal from the Commission, we find the focus by the authorities on reuse of anonymized or pseudonymized protected data in areas such as health and education particularly interesting. Obviously, the reuse of data must be non-discriminatory, proportionate, and objectively justified, within the search to better provide public services. 

The concept of “data altruism” is also promising, although we caution that it needs to be managed by accredited professionals from the scientific or public sphere. Data is a very powerful tool, a factor of production that, at the same time, is connected with what is most personal for each of us. That is why it cannot be left in the hands of just anyone. Europe has long been aware of this risk; we welcome that it is acting accordingly.