A Matter of Opinion? An EDPS View on the European Data Strategy

According to the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) in his recent opinion on the European Data Strategy, the predominant business model of the digital economy is characterized by an unprecedented concentration of data in the hands of a handful of powerful players, based outside the EU, and wide-scale pervasive tracking. The EDPS goes on to share that he strongly believes that one of the most important objectives of the European Data Strategy should be to prove the viability and sustainability of an alternative data economy model – open, fair, and democratic.

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Editor’s Note: The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) is the European Union’s independent data protection authority, tasked with ensuring that the institutions and bodies of the EU respect data protection law. Earlier in the year, the European Commission published a communication highlighting a European strategy for data. This update presents the EDPS view on that Data Strategy.

European Data Protection Supervisor Opinion 3/2020 on the European Strategy for Data 

Executive Summary

The European Commission published on 19  February 2020 a Communication  “A European strategy for data”. It is part of a wider package of strategic documents, including also a Communication on Shaping Europe’s digital future and a White Paper on Artificial Intelligence – A European approach to excellence and trust.

The aim of the Data Strategy is to create a single European data space and thus make it easier for businesses and public authorities to access high-quality data to boost growth and create value. Moreover, it should “enable the EU to become the most attractive, most secure, and most dynamic data- agile economy in the world”. A key element of the Data Strategy is the development of common European data spaces in strategic economic sectors and domains of public interest, such as the common European health data space.

This Opinion presents the EDPS view on the Data Strategy as a whole, as well as on certain specific aspects, such as the notion of “public good”, Open Data, use of data for scientific research, data intermediaries, data altruism, international data sharing, and others.

The EDPS understands the growing importance of data for the economy and society and supports the wider strategic objectives of the EU, such as the development of the Digital Single Market and the EU’s digital sovereignty. At the same time, he recalls that “big data comes with big responsibility” and therefore appropriate data protection safeguards must be in place.

In this regard, the EDPS applauds the Commission’s commitment to ensure that European fundamental rights and values, including the right to the protection of personal data, underpin all aspects of the Data Strategy and its implementation. In particular, he appreciates the assurance that the Strategy would be developed in full compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation, which provides a solid basis, also by virtue of its technologically-neutral approach.

The EDPS underlines that one of the objectives of the Data Strategy should be to prove the viability and sustainability of an alternative data economy model – open, fair, and democratic. Unlike the current predominant business model, characterized by an unprecedented concentration of data in a handful of powerful players, as well as pervasive tracking, the European data space should serve as an example of transparency, effective accountability and proper balance between the interests of the individual data subjects and the shared interest of the society as a whole.

Furthermore, this Opinion takes into account the unprecedented global crisis, caused by the COVID- 19 pandemic, which has affected all aspects of our life. In this context, the EDPS reiterates his position that data protection is not the problem but part of the solution. Data and technology can play an important role in overcoming the crisis in combination with other factors, as there is no  “silver bullet” for something as complex like this.

The EDPS remains at the disposal of the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament to provide further advice at the next stages of the implementation of the European strategy for data, both in terms of legal framework and of practical aspects. The comments in this Opinion are without prejudice to additional comments in the future on particular issues and/or if further information is available.

European Data Protection Supervisor Opinion 3/2020

The complete EDPS Opinion on the European Strategy for Data (PDF)

EDPS Opinion on Data Strategy – 16 June 2020

Read the original report via the European Data Protection Supervisor website.

Additional Reading

Source: ComplexDiscovery

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