EU a step closer to Data Act that will take on Big Tech

28 Jun 2023

EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager. Image: Claudio Centonze/European Commission

EU industry chief Thierry Breton hailed the deal agreed yesterday as a ‘milestone’ in creating a thriving European data economy ‘on our conditions’.

Europeans are now closer to an EU Data Act as countries and lawmakers reached a deal on the proposed legislation after extensive talks.

First revealed last February, the proposed Data Act intends to give consumers and companies in the EU “even more control over what can be done with their data” and clarifies “who can access data and on what terms,” according to EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager.

The objective of the act, which affects all non-personal data, is to ensure fairness in the allocation of value from data, stimulate a competitive data market and make data more accessible.

It is part of the EU’s continued effort to restore the balance of power to people rather than major corporations and would loosen Big Tech’s grip on commercial and industrial data.

Under the new rules, users of connected devices would be able to gain access to data generated by themselves and share it with third parties. This means people would be able to transfer their data from a product such as Amazon’s Alexa or a Tesla vehicle to another company.

“Tonight’s agreement on the Data Act is a milestone in reshaping the digital space,” EU commissioner Thierry Breton tweeted. “We are on the way of a thriving EU data economy that is innovative and open – on our conditions.”

Swedish minister for public administration Erik Slottner added that once the Data Act enters into force, it will “unlock the economic and societal potential of data” and contribute to an internal market for data.

“It will enhance the single market, allowing data to flow freely within the EU and across sectors for the benefit of our citizens and businesses.”

However, many in the industry are not happy with the cybersecurity implications of the act.

Last month, leaders of major European tech companies, including SAP and Siemens, criticised the draft EU data law in a letter to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Vestager and Breton. The tech leaders asked for a pause to make updates to the proposals so that the European businesses can remain competitive.

“It risks undermining European competitiveness by mandating data sharing – including core know-how and design data – with not only the user, but also third parties,” Reuters quoted the letter.

“Effectively, this could mean that EU companies will have to disclose data to third-country competitors, notably those not operating in Europe and against which the Data Act’s safeguards would be ineffective.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic