In a departure from its previous data strategy, the EU has decided to launch a market for personal data
What does it mean?
With the new European Data Governance Strategy, the EU will play an active role in facilitating the use and monetization of its citizens’ personal data. This strategy outlines policy measures and initiatives to be implemented in the next five years. More specifically, it will create a pan-European market for personal data using a data trust, a steward that manages people’s data and has fiduciary duties towards its clients.
The data created about European citizens will be stored in public servers and managed by data trusts, which means tech companies will not be allowed to store or move this data. They will have to access it via these trusts. Citizens are supposed to get “data dividends” for their data, but it is not clear how this will work.
As this post in the MIT Technology Review explains, data trusts can raise their own problems. To start with, they do not guarantee transparency in their use, as each trust will be managed by a board of directors. Depending on who sits on those boards, whether they are political appointees or functionaries, they may exert more or less control.
These data trusts are not guaranteed to provide more transparency and control over their data to citizens, as they cannot even opt out from them.
Still, this is a step in the right direction. As they say, data is the new oil and it will be increasingly where the value of the economy will reside. Collecting it via data trusts and creating this data market will allow the EU to share the data created by and about its citizens with SMEs, start-ups, government agencies, and so on, in a safe manner. It may be a way to break up the monopolistic tendencies of the big tech companies.
As the MIT Technology Review article says:
Ideally, the Trusts Project would show the world a more equitable way to capture and distribute the true value of personal data. There’s still time to deliver on that promise.
The Trusts Project, which involves the creation of data trusts, is the first project launched under the EU Data Strategy linked above, with a budget of €7 million and to be finalised by 2022. There are still many details to be clarified and remains to be seen what final shape all this will take, but it looks promising.
Once this project and the rest of the strategy are implemented, it would be interesting to see how this affects other regions and countries.
We will watch this space with attention to see how it evolves.