Data Act Aims to Protect EU Consumers in Smart Device Era

The European Commission has proposed new rules on who can use and access data generated across economic sectors in the European Union. The proposed legislation would require Amazon, Microsoft, Google and other cloud service providers as well as those who harvest data to establish safeguards preventing non-EU governments from illegally accessing EU consumer information. “We want to give consumers and companies even more control over what can be done with their data, clarifying who can access data and on what terms,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EC’s commissioner for competition, in announcing the Data Act.

Vestager stressed the Data Act as a key digital principle contributing “to creating a solid and fair data-driven economy and guide the digital transformation by 2030” in the EC announcement.

The draft law “lays out rights and obligations on the use of EU consumer and corporate data generated in smart gadgets and machinery as well as consumer goods,” says Reuters, calling it part of “a series of rules aimed at curbing the power of U.S. tech giants” in addition to helping the EU achieve digital and green goals.

Despite the fact that the Data Act would create new firewalls and protections, it is envisioned as creating market opportunities. “Today is an important step in unlocking a wealth of industrial data in Europe, benefiting businesses, consumers, public services and society as a whole,” said Thierry Breton, EC commissioner for the internal market.

“So far, only a small part of industrial data is used and the potential for growth and innovation is enormous,” Breton added. “The Data Act will ensure that industrial data is shared, stored and processed in full respect of European rules. It will form the cornerstone of a strong, innovative and sovereign European digital economy.”

The proposed legislation “would force more data sharing among companies in Europe — aiming to loosen the grip officials say a few big tech companies have on some commercial and industrial data,” reports The Wall Street Journal, adding that the Data Act is crafted “to help smaller companies keep up with big ones in the race to profit from troves of non-personal data generated by connected products, ranging from smart appliances to automobiles.”

EU concern over data transfers has grown “since former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed mass U.S. surveillance. This led Europe’s top court to outlaw a transatlantic data transfer pact known as the Privacy Shield which thousands of companies depended on for services ranging from cloud infrastructure to payroll and finance,” Reuters writes, noting, the U.S. and EU have since been groping for a transatlantic data agreement.

Irish regulator Could Halt Facebook, Instagram EU-US Data Flows in May, Reuters, 2/23/22
New EU Antitrust Frontier Emerges for Microsoft and Google: Spam Ads, Politico, 2/18/22

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