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ARTICLE10 December 2020

Welcome proposals in the Data Governance Act

Data sharing is of great importance in developing the data economy. This is something that is also reflected in the first part of the European Commission’s data strategy with the proposal for a Data Governance Act (DGA).

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Data sharing - the exchange of data between different actors - is of great importance in developing the data economy. Taking advantage of the benefits offered by better developed and more efficient use of data is crucial. This is something that is also reflected in the first part of the European Commission’s data strategy with the proposal for a Data Governance Act (DGA).

The proposed Regulation aims at creating a new way of handling data that is in line with EU values and principles. The DGA proposes an instrument to foster the availability of data for use by increasing trust in data intermediaries and by strengthening data-sharing mechanisms across the EU.

Already last year, a new Directive (2019/1024) on open data and the re-use of public sector information was adopted (Open Data Directive), which introduces new requirements for Member States to update their existing legislation on accessibility to public sector data. The overall aim of the Directive is to encourage the development of the EU data economy by increasing the amount of data available from the public sector, while ensuring fair competition and improving cross-border innovation.

The proposed DGA complements the Open Data Directive by aiming to make available certain types of public data that are not already covered by the Directive. These are public data, which are protected by the rights and interests of others and therefore falls outside the scope of the Open Data directive. The proposed Regulation does not imply an explicit right of access to such data, but rather establishes certain uniform conditions that may enable making such data available. The public activities that make such protected data available must be sufficiently technically equipped to ensure that the relevant data protection is maintained during the process of data sharing.

One question that we need to ask ourselves is whether there are sufficient incentives available for public actors to take the necessary measures to make more data available. We hope so. Improved access to public data may lead to advances and efficiencies in community service in healthcare, as well as promoting innovation and acting as a resource in developing new technologies such as AI, distributed database technology and the Internet of Things (IoT). We consider that all initiatives that promote and increase access to data generated by public bodies will have a positive impact on development. What remains to be seen, however, is whether the effects of the Open Data directive and the DGA will be sufficient to fulfil their objectives.

The DGA also proposes a type of notification system for those providers of data sharing services (data intermediaries) who wish to act as intermediaries in data sharing. According to the regulation, such data intermediaries must fulfil a number of requirements. The requirements aim at increasing trust in the data sharing service, however, the demands for neutrality also restricts the freedom to conduct business. The requirements sought at creating an alternative model to the data management practices of the established large established (Americans) platforms, and also to reduce the transaction costs linked to data sharing between companies and between consumers and companies (B2B and C2B data sharing). However, these costs may just as well be higher, as the data intermediaries are prevented from profiting from the data generated by their assignments.

The proposed Regulation will further promote so-called ‘data altruism’. This means that private actors voluntarily make data available to others for the public good. The proposal means, among other things, that those organisations involved in data altruism can be registered as ”Data Altruism Organisations recognised in the EU”, as long as they meet certain requirements, including that they must have been established to act in the public interest and that they are not profit-driven. In addition, a ”Data Altruism consent form” will be introduced, which aims to simplify the process for companies and individuals who are willing to make their information available for the public benefit. Furthermore, the Regulation contains rules on the functioning of the competent authorities and on the introduction of an expert group, called the ‘European Data Innovation Board’.

All in all, the proposals in the DGA are welcomed. It is particularly positive that the location requirements - which the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise had expressed concerns over in a previously published comment on the DGA - have been deleted in the final proposal.

Written byCarola Ekblad
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Publisher and editor-in-chief Anna Dalqvist