Executive Vice President of the European Commission for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager (L), and European Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton (R), give a press conference on the Data Act at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, 23 February 2022. [EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ]
Speech by Executive Vice-President Vestager on the Data Act
European Commission Speech Brussels, 23 Feb 2022
The Data Act as part of our human-centric Digital Strategy
Today, we adopted the proposal for the Data Act – an important step towards the creation of a single European market for data. We announced the Data Act in our European Strategy two years ago.
The data act clarifies who can access and share data, and on what terms. It provides legal certainty and it aims at removing barriers to data sharing. This is our second main legislative initiative directly related to data. The first one was the Data Governance Act. It provided the legal framework for trustworthy infrastructures needed to promote data sharing. And as you know that proposal is adopted.
We have already launched a number of initiatives to “shape Europe‘s digital future”. This includes our proposal on trustworthy AI, our work on digital platforms, as you will know it from Digital Services and the Digital Markets Acts, both now in trilogues, our “Digital Compass” and our recently proposed Declaration of digital rights and principles.
The aim of all our initiatives is two-fold: We want to unleash the huge benefits that the responsible use of data and digital technologies can bring to every one of us. At the same time, we want safe use of data and technologies. A use that works for people and respects our fundamental rights. That means addressing the risks that may be associated with the use of technologies – risks to our privacy, risk to our integrity, even risk to our physical and mental health.
Benefits of data sharing
Data is an essential resource for economic growth, for competitiveness, for innovation, and for job creation.
In the Data Act, the data we have in mind is typically generated by connected machines or connected devices. That could be a smart watch, it could be a car, or eventually even your coffee machine. These devices generate a huge amount of data in what we call the “internet of things”. So do all those sensors that automatically take in information from our environment. A lot of this data is non-personal data, and most of it is currently unused. If used, such data can provide a multitude of possibilities for new products, new services, or they can foster research. But for this to happen, we need to define who has control over such data, and who can use it for what purpose.
Our data strategy is all about putting such data into productive use, to the benefit of companies and society. The green transition can only happen if we become more energy efficient – and the use of data will help us. Just imagine how much more efficient we can become if we analyse traffic data in order to improve public transport and anticipate traffic congestion.
In order to make this possible we address remaining barriers to data sharing.
The Data Act defines who can use what data, and under what conditions. We want to ensure greater fairness in the allocation of the value created by data.
The main part: B2C and B2B data sharing
We are buying more and more products that generate data – from smart watches to connected cars. Currently, it is mainly the manufacturer of these products who holds and uses the data. In order to empower consumers, we want to change this, building on data portability.
First, consumers will have the right to access all of this data, free of charge and in real time. Second, we will have the right to oblige the manufacturer to share this data with another company – a company that we choose, a company that have chosen to provide us with additional services, could be a maintenance or repair.
This gives us greater control over our data. It also boosts competition by allowing more companies to offer their services to us. In our proposal, we are ensuring that small and medium sized businesses will be the main beneficiaries of these new opportunities. Competition in the consumer internet of things has also been analysed in the recent sector inquiry by DG Competition, and here competition is indeed needed.
Other provisions of the Data Act
The Data Act will also establish a fairness test for data sharing contracts across the economy. This test will help micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in situations where there are unfair contractual terms are unilaterally imposed on them.
We have also been looking at the difficulties that private and public customers face when they want to move their data from one cloud service provider to another. The Data Act aims to remove commercial, technical, and contractual obstacles that still prevent customers from switching between cloud services. So enabling that switch if a costumer would want it.
This will not only empower customers. It will also allow for more competition in an area that is increasingly important for business users and governments alike.
B2G data sharing
The Data Act also identifies exceptional circumstances under which public authorities may get data from private companies. The pandemic has shown us that there are situations where companies have data that is critical in public emergencies. Data that would allow public authorities to quickly respond. The Data Act clarifies when such data sharing might be justified and when it might be needed.
Before I conclude, I would like to draw your attention to interoperability. Data sharing is often impossible for technical reasons. These could be the lack of standardised formats for data or metadata, or lack of relevant core vocabularies. Simply put, it is hard to communicate if you do not speak the same language. The Data Act provides for a mechanism to identify and effectively address such technical obstacles.
Throughout the proposal, we have paid particular attention to the needs and possible restraints that SMEs are facing:
On the one hand, they are the main beneficiaries of the data sharing provisions. They will have privileged access to such data, because gatekeeper companies, those who will be designated under the Digital Markets Act, they will not be eligible, so SMEs only. They will also get such data on reasonable terms, because the price they have to pay is limited to the direct costs arising to the manufacturer. SMEs will also benefit from the fairness test.
On the other hand, we kept possible compliance cost for SMEs to a minimum. Small and micro enterprises are exempted from the data sharing obligations and from the obligations to share data with public bodies.
Summing up, our proposal will be an important step towards a single market for data that empowers people and leads to a fairer allocation of value.