October 26, 2021

Data Sovereignty Monitor Results Support the EU Data Act But Reveal Lack of Readiness

The European Union (EU) is on a mission to achieve data sovereignty, as illustrated by the release of the European Digital Strategy last year. One of the key elements of implementing the EU’s strategy is the Data Act. Data Sovereignty Now conducted the Data Sovereignty Monitor survey in more than 10 countries from June to August 2021 to find out whether people and organisations share EU policymakers’ data concerns.

Data Sovereignty Now supports the Data Act as a whole, and the results of the monitor – which will be published in mid-November -, also support the need for the Data Act. Data sovereignty is important to the majority of the respondents (55%). The highest-ranking aspects of data sovereignty are control, trust and transparency. This shows that the concept of data sovereignty is moving beyond the issue of privacy alone, as users are putting an ever-higher value on the idea of having autonomy over their online activities and presence.

Data sovereignty requires common rules and practices. It is especially important to define balanced measures that enable data access and portability for businesses and individual users. Measures should also encourage data sharing based on clear terms of use and standards supporting interoperability. The Data Act provides some valuable tools to this end.

The Data Act is part of a larger regulatory transformation, which can be complex and difficult to comprehend. Most of the respondents in the Data Sovereignty Monitor stated that, although they comply with current European data legislation, they feel insufficiently prepared for the Data Act and the upcoming legislative changes in Europe. In view of this, Data Sovereignty Now advocates that the regulatory burden on companies should be kept to a minimum and further research is needed to explore where the obstacles lie.

Data Sovereignty Now further suggests considering the possibility of establishing an EU-level regulatory support center (cf. the Data Spaces Support Centre) and calls for tools and other forms of support for stakeholders – and for SMEs in particular – that are trying to adapt to these changes. This support is necessary in order to ensure a level playing field and to prevent the changes from disproportionately benefiting the major players. In turn, Data Sovereignty Now favors the inclusion of the right to valorize one’s own data or the digital component of products to ensure that true value is attributed to the data owner and is enforceable when needed.

Moreover, Data Sovereignty Now observes only a fine line between consumer data and business data and believes that the Data Act should address this better by adopting a more holistic view. Applying common terms would serve as a good basis for open dialogue.

In the spirit of open dialogue, Data Sovereignty Now encourages the EU to involve a diverse range of existing expert groups and consortia as part of the process. From the point of view of businesses and individuals in Europe, it is good that the EU realizes the opportunities of the data economy. Legislative proposals for promoting the Data Strategy must be based on full impact assessments that take account of the consequences for both service providers and service users.

About Data Sovereignty Now

Data Sovereignty Now is a coalition of leading European-based technology companies, research institutions, and non-profits that are lobbying European policymakers at all levels to ensure that control over data remains in the hands of the people and organizations that generate it.

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