The new Data Governance Act (DGA) oversees how anonymised data can be used and shared for the benefit of society at large

The coronavirus pandemic has clearly demonstrated not only the necessity of connectivity in the modern world, but also the benefits big data can have when it comes to helping society at large.


Back in February when the EU announced its new strategy for data, it included specific reference to making anonymised European data available for public benefit.


“Data generated by the public sector as well as the value created should be available for the common good by ensuring, including through preferential access, that these data are used by researchers, other public institutions, SMEs or start-ups,” read the report. “Data from the private sector can also make a significant contribution as public goods. The use of aggregated and anonymised social media data can for example be an effective way of complementing the reports of general practitioners in case of an epidemic.”


The coronavirus itself provided a good example of just such collaborative, anonymised data usage, with pharmaceutical companies sharing data to help develop a vaccine, but struggling to do so for a number of months due to the lack of a data sharing framework. 


But with big data sharing comes big challenges, such as exactly who should be able to access this data and how we can ensure that the data remains anonymised. 


Now, the new DGA outlines a framework for that data use, ensuring it remains neutral and transparent. Importantly, it also proposes to store and process that data within the EU itself, potentially causing a major headache for US tech giants like Google and Facebook, which make billions of dollars from using that anonymised data to sell ads and other services. 


“The framework offers an alternative model to the current data handling practices offered by big tech platforms," said the VP of the Commission, Margrete Vestager.


The economic value of using this data effectively is enormous, with Vestager saying that “today only very little of all of that data is put to productive use”. The new measures outlined in the DGA are predicted to increase the economic value of that data by €7–€11 billion by 2028.


The next piece of related legislature is expected to be announced before the end of the year, while the third and final piece of the puzzle will be unveiled early in 2021.


The EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton (pictured), said that the regulations were the start of a process that would make Europe the world’s top “data continent”.


“With the ever-growing role of industrial data in our economy, Europe needs an open yet sovereign Single Market for data,” said Breton.


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