General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) , Governance & Risk Management , Privacy

EU to Push Ahead With Data Act Despite Criticism

EU's Industry Chief Says Europe's 'Assertion Is Not Protectionism'
EU to Push Ahead With Data Act Despite Criticism
Thierry Breton, internal market commissioner, EU's European Commission (Source: European Commission)

Europe's continued efforts to control its data will not stifle competition and are not an act of "protectionism," a top European Union official said amid growing criticism of the EU's legislative proposal to introduce stringent data-sharing requirements for businesses.

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The European Union's Data Act, put forward in 2022, seeks to create a single market to allow free flow of data within the EU. The proposal would lay down rules to allow European public bodies to access data generated by IoT and cloud devices and prevent non-EU governments from accessing these data sources.

The legislation, which is set to enter the final stage of adoption next week, has faced a barrage of criticism from tech companies and industry bodies who argue the proposal will stifle competition in Europe and negatively affect businesses in the region.

Thierry Breton, the EU's internal market commissioner, who visited Silicon Valley on Friday, dismissed the criticism as "myths about Europe's approach to technology."

"I have heard new European rules to open up both public and industrial data in Europe being described as protectionist," Breton said. "Assertiveness is not protectionism. Our European data strategy is to unlock a wealth of big data and set out how that data should be shared."

Breton said that Europe will push ahead with the legislation. "All companies operating in Europe - including U.S. firms - will soon have to apply our new rules on AI, online platforms and data everywhere in Europe," he said.

The Data Act critics include the European Crypto Initiative, a consortium of crypto industry bodies, which in an open letter last week criticized the broad categorization of smart contracts as "computer programs" under the proposed legislation. The group also objected to clauses mandating that smart contracts be designed to offer an access control mechanism, arguing that this would undermine the core functionalities of the technology.

The group said the one-size-fits-all approach to smart contracts could affect a significant number of existing technology providers that rely on public electronic data records. "This could not only have unintended consequences for the legality and operability of these widely used smart contracts, but could also have a significant economic impact on the single market," the group wrote.

In May, in an open letter sent to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, German software makers SAP and Siemens raised concerns regarding a provision mandating companies to share data that could endanger trade secrets, Reuters reported. They also called on the EU to include features allowing the companies to share data that may consist of trade secrets.

The EU is on track to address the Data Act next week as it enters the trilogue stage between the members of the European Parliament, the commission and the council. On Friday, Euractiv reported that the EU has already reached a consensus on data-sharing obligations, although the trilogue negotiations will focus on trade secrets, governance and product safety.

About the Author

Akshaya Asokan

Akshaya Asokan

Senior Correspondent, ISMG

Asokan is a U.K.-based senior correspondent for Information Security Media Group's global news desk. She previously worked with IDG and other publications, reporting on developments in technology, minority rights and education.

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