EU agrees on data sharing legislation to accelerate industry-wide innovation

The Data Governance Act aims to make it easier for personal data to be shared across the public and private sectors in areas such as research, innovation, and AI

The EU's proposed Data Governance Act (DGA) has been provisionally agreed by the European Council and European Parliament which could bring an innovation boost to the Bloc's data economy.

The DGA promotes the sharing of protected public-sector data between companies in the EU and aims to provide a trustworthy environment through which innovative products and research can be produced.

It will introduce robust mechanisms such as digital platforms which can be used to purchase data for 'altruistic projects', the Bloc said on Tuesday.

It’s thought such data can be bought and re-used at a faster rate by EU member states to accelerate the development of projects for the common good, like medical research.

There is also a belief in the EU that the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) development cannot be unlocked without data sharing.

"The Data Governance Act is a major milestone that will boost the data-driven economy in Europe in the years to come," said Boštjan Koritnik, Slovenian minister for public administration, and president of the European Council. "By enabling control and creating trust, it will help unlock the potential of vast amounts of data generated by businesses and individuals.

"This is indispensable for the development of artificial intelligence applications and critical for the EU’s global competitiveness in this area. Data-powered innovations will help us address a range of societal challenges and drive economic growth, which is so important for the post-COVID recovery."

Data made available on these digital platforms will be subject to the rights of others and includes categories such as trade secrets, personal data and data protected by intellectual property rights.

The EU said individuals and companies whose data will be made available on these platforms, known as data intermediation services, will have full control over their data and share it only with clients they trust.

Data intermediation services will also have to be listed on an official register to be able to operate - a measure the EU hopes will foster greater trust in the initiative. 

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"The law will be used to structure data sharing between organisations and member states in a more open and controlled way than is currently possible," said Peter Galdies, senior consultant at DQM GRC. 

"Importantly, the obligation to meet the requirements of pre-existing data legislation still exists. It does not attempt to run roughshod over laws like the GDPR, but instead more clearly allocates responsibilities and measures that may have to be met to allow such sharing to take place."

The core principles of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be at the heart of each data transaction on these digital platforms. Data intermediaries will not be able to share or sell data for any other purposes outside of what's agreed by the original stakeholders but will be allowed to charge for each transaction.

Public sector bodies will be prohibited from creating exclusive rights for the re-use of certain data and exclusive agreements will have to be limited to a maximum of 12 months, or two-and-a-half years for existing agreements.

"We are at the beginning of the age of AI and Europe will require more and more data," said lead MEP Angelika Niebler. "This agreement should make it easy and safe to tap into the rich data silos spread all over the EU.

"The data revolution will not wait for Europe. We need to act now if European digital companies want to have a place among the world’s top digital innovators."

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