The impact of COVID-19 on everyday life suggests that moves towards digital solutions for many aspects of everyday life will only accelerate. Data will be at the heart of these solutions, and issues around who can do what with it and on what terms are becoming ever more important. The EU Commission wants to ensure that Europe's policy on data leads this debate, and ensures that Europe does not unwittingly give up control of the data its citizens generate, either to US tech companies or China. Against this backdrop, two important EU public consultations will come to a close very soon.
One is the white paper on artificial intelligence, setting out policy options on how to promote the uptake of AI while addressing technology risks. Building trust is at its core, as is the availability and management of data. One of the key issues is the scope of any future regulatory framework, with the European Commission recommending a risk-based approach. The proposed European AI governance structure would ensure maximum stakeholder participation, and stakeholders are invited to share their thoughts on the paper (either publicly or confidentially) by 14 June 2020.
The other is the European data strategy, which goes hand in hand with the AI white paper. Its ambition is to make Europe the global data hub for both personal and non-personal data, leading the data-agile economy and complementing it with a wider industrial strategy (including edge and quantum computing, low-power processors and 6G networks). It recognises how essential data is, but in different ways across sectors, so it aims to enable the development of sectoral data spaces. It talks of building infrastructures of data pools to allow data-driven ecosystems to prosper with the aid of tech. It considers purpose-fit legislation and governance for data availability (including enabling innovative re-uses), standards and tools investments, as well as data handling competences. This consultation ends earlier, on 31 May 2020. Notably, a European Data Act is possibly on the table for 2021, a law that may include changes to the IP framework to strengthen data access and use, with possible Database Directive revisions and Trade Secrets Directive clarifications.
All of this is timely, coinciding with Mark Zuckerberg effectively asking EU Commissioner Thierry Breton for the EU to take the lead on further digital regulation in a CERRE debate, which he thinks is inevitable globally. This adds to a lengthening list of digital developments already in the EU's legislative pipeline. Commissioner Breton has been entrusted with leading a coordinated approach on AI by developing the European strategy on data and the upcoming Digital Services Act, as well as ensuring relevant IP protections are future-proofed. The Europe fit for the digital age strategy also includes increasing cybersecurity through the NIS Directive review, a cross-sectoral financial services law on operational and cyber resilience and a crypto assets proposal.
Despite the pandemic the regulatory pace towards a coordinated EU data strategy shows no sign of slowing.