Data Act: Creating a coherent framework to increase stakeholders’ trust in data sharing

Tue, Sep 07, 2021

On 3 September, we submitted our contribution to the European Commission’s public consultation on the Data Act.

The European Alliance for Research Excellence welcomed the European Commission’s ambitions to increase access to and further use of data through a new “Data Act”. The Covid-19 crisis showed the pressing need to accelerate the digital transformation of the global economy, and with it the need to have clear rules regarding data sharing and access. The enhanced sharing of data, in particular, will be key to encouraging the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Europe, which offers vast potential for economic growth and can help generate insights to address some of society’s biggest challenges, from healthcare to the environment. Opening up access to data for better research outcomes, such as making progress in medical science, and supporting Europe’s ability to bring new innovative products and services to the market for the benefit of consumers, is achievable and preferable to data being withheld by a few public or private organisations.

To achieve this objective, we believe that policy efforts should concentrate on creating coherent and easy-to-understand frameworks to increase stakeholders’ trust and encourage them to access and collaborate with data in an effective, fair and non-discriminatory manner, as well as open up and re-use data across Europe, in line with European values, including privacy rules. Therefore, we call on the EU to ensure that the numerous and complex data-related reforms currently considered (e.g. the Artificial Intelligence Act, the Data Act, the Data Governance Act – coupled with some sectoral initiatives like the European Health data space) unleash research and innovation rather than stifle it.

Specifically on the Data Act, we’d like to highlight the following aspects of our contribution.

Sections I and II: Business-to-Government (B2G) and Business-to-Business (B2B) data sharing

Regarding B2G and B2B data sharing, we would like to reinforce the need to consider collaboration models that allow organisations to voluntarily share data while maintaining control and safeguarding private or sensitive information. These can include innovative governance structures (data trusts, data cooperatives or data commons), effective legal agreements that facilitate access to data (model contract terms for voluntary data sharing agreements) and the use of technologies that help protect privacy and strengthen security. Overall, EARE would caution the European Commission against introducing mandatory B2B or B2G data sharing obligations, as this could raise legitimate concerns around sensitive information. If such obligations were nonetheless introduced, we would recommend for their respective scopes to be narrowly and carefully defined.

Section VII: Database Directive

Regarding the Database Directive, a 2018 study commissioned the European Commission to collect evidence on the impacts of this Directive notes that “the effectiveness of the sui generis right, as a means to stimulate investment on databases, remains unproven”. Consequently, EARE considers that the sui generis right should be repealed. At the very least, the Database Directive should be amended so that producers of databases wishing to benefit from the sui generis right should register first – and so that public sector datasets are excluded from the scope of the Directive. In addition, EARE recommends excluding machine-generated data from the scope of the Directive, as such an inclusion would have a strong negative impact on research and innovation. 

We believe that making data “as open as possible”, while respecting strong security and privacy requirements, is critically important to foster collaboration and help drive European research and competitiveness. Promoting data-driven innovation in Europe requires input from government, industry, academia, and other stakeholders.

Submission to the Data Act consultation

Accompanying document to the consultation

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