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EU wants to tackle “data nationalism”

Matteo Natalucci Published 18 September 2017

EU wants to build cross-border data-focused economy within Digital Single Market, reinforce ENISA’s role and beef up security standards to raise user confidence in areas like IoT

European Commission vice-president and EU digital chief Andrus Ansip has laid out his plans for the EU’s treatment of Data in the Digital Single Market (DSM).

In a blog post he identified “data protectionism” as a core obstacle for the DSM, stressing the role of data sharing to enhance EU cyber security capabilities.

Ansip highlighted the lack of legal certainty about applicable rules and practices when it comes to data movement, outside the situations covered by forthcoming general Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulation. Ansip wants to avoid so called “data localisation” and to increase cross-border storage and processing of data. He proposes the establishment of free movement of data as a basic principle in EU law.

Ansip said , “We need to remove the artificial barbed-wire barriers from our digital borders that force data to be stored unnecessarily within national territory or data centres – unless there is a good reason, like national security. Our proposal focuses on the free flow of non-personal data - such as company registration information, industrial machine-to-machine data, farming and weather data.” (add link)

“The core of the problem remains the same: national requirements on processing, storage and transfer of data. You could also call them data protectionism, or data nationalism. Digital borders, or a non-tariff barrier to trade”, Ansip said.

He said, “But whatever their name, rules forcing data to be stored unnecessarily within national territory do not make sense in the Digital Single Market. There is no place for them ... This is holding up the Digital Single Market. It is holding up our progress in fast-growth sectors like the Internet of Things and cloud computing services. I would call this is a waste. And an expensive waste as well.”

 “If we can get rid of needless national and local barriers to data flows, as well as address the underlying uncertainties, then everyone stands to gain”, he added.

Commission experts are now working on an impact assessment to lay the basis for a free flow of non-personal data proposal to be presented in autumn that will be complementary to the GDPR legislation that comes into force next May. The new regulation will also include the provision of availability of data, even when it is stored in other EU countries, when public authorities need it.

Ansip also wants to strength EU cyber security capabilities by enhancing data sharing and cooperation between member states.

“Nobody can address major cyber threats alone. Europe needs to adapt fast and prepare, give itself the necessary technical, legal and operational means. Only then will we – Member States and industry, private individuals and EU institutions - be able to prevent and respond to any large-scale cyber threat in a coordinated way,” Ansip said.

As a result, the EU will reinforce the role of ENISA, the EU agency for network information and security, to support and help coordinate Member States' cyber security capabilities. The EU is also setting up an EU-wide cyber security certification of products and services framework to ensure high-security standards and raise user confidence, for instance, in IoT devices. To achieve this result the EU will create a network of excellence centres and a European cyber security research and competence centre to support innovation in Europe.


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