“Big data comes with big responsibility” and therefore appropriate data protection safeguards must be in place.
The European Data Protection Supervisor has issued an opinion on the European Strategy for Data. In February 2020, the European Commission published a Communication on “A European strategy for data”. It is part of a wider package of strategic documents including a Communication on Shaping Europe’s digital future and a White Paper on AI.
The aim of the Data Strategy is to create a single European data space and so make it easier for businesses and public authorities to access high-quality data, with the aim of boosting growth and creating value. It should also “enable the EU to become the most attractive, most secure and most dynamic data-agile economy in the world”. A key element of the Data Strategy is the development of common European data spaces in strategic economic sectors and domains of public interest, such as the common European health data space.
The EDPS Opinion sets out the view on the Data Strategy as a whole, as well as about certain specific aspects, such as the notion of “public good”, Open Data, use of data for scientific research, data intermediaries, data altruism, international data sharing and others.
The EDPS understands the growing importance of data for the economy and society and supports the wider strategic objectives of the EU, such as the development of the Digital Single Market and the EU’s digital sovereignty. However, “big data comes with big responsibility” and therefore appropriate data protection safeguards must be in place.
In this regard, the EDPS supports the European Commission’s commitment to ensure that European fundamental rights and values, including the right to the protection of personal data, underpin all aspects of the Data Strategy and its implementation. In particular, the EDPS appreciates the assurance that the Strategy would be developed in full compliance with the GDPR, which provides a robust framework with its technologically-neutral approach.
The EDPS emphasises that one of the objectives of the Data Strategy should be to prove the viability and sustainability of an alternative data economy model - open, fair and democratic. Unlike the current predominant business model, characterised by unprecedented concentration of data in a handful of powerful players, as well as pervasive tracking, the European data space should serve as an example of transparency, effective accountability and proper balance between the interests of the individual data subjects and the shared interest of the society as a whole.
Against the background of the current pandemic, the EDPS reiterates the position that data protection is not the problem but part of the solution. Data and technology can play an important role in the overcoming the crisis in combination with other factors, as there is no “silver bullet” for it.
The EDPS will provide further advice at the next stages of the implementation of the European strategy for data, both in terms of legal framework and of practical aspects. The comments in the Opinion may be updated in the future on particular issues and/or if further information is available.