Consultation workshop on the Free Flow of Data, 18 May 2016, Brussels

The Consultation workshop on the Free Flow of Data, held on May 18th, in Brussels was aimed at engaging stakeholders around a set of key issues related to the Free Flow of Data.

The agenda was structured primarily around the issue of data localisation restrictions and legal barriers to the free flow of data. It also addressed other emerging issues such as data ownership and access to data, liability, interoperability, and re-use of data.

 The meeting was  meant to introduce the Free flow of data Initiative,  one of the 16 initiative the commission is working on to consolidate the Digital Single Market, to be launched at the end of November.

Pillar III: Maximising the growth potential of the digital economy

The Commission will:

14. propose a 'European free flow of data initiative' topromote the free movement of data in the European Union. Sometimes new services are hampered by restrictions on where data is located or on data access – restrictions which often do not have anything to do with protecting personal data. This new initiative will tackle those restrictions and so encourage innovation. The Commission will also launch a European Cloud initiative covering certification of cloud services, the switching of cloud service providers and a "research cloud". 

The consultation workshop chaired by Pearse O’Donohue, Head of Unit, DG CNECT Software, Services and Cloud, brought together experts in relevant areas for the free flow of data in EU, Cloud service providers, SME associations, legal firms, research institutions as well as a few consumer association, in order to present their views and actively discuss the issues as well as provide the Commission with further feedback.

The first of the four sessions was dedicated to the planning and preparation of the  free flow of data initiative and it offered a report on the outcomes of the Public Consultation on the Regulatory Environment for data and cloud Computing  that the Commission carried out from the 24 September to the 6 January 2016.

The feedback received from the consultation confirmed urgent need action is needed as it pointed out that data location restrictions are affecting respondents’ use of data services and affecting business strategies. The majority of respondents consider that the existing legal framework and contractual practices for data access and use are not fit for purpose. There is an unclear liability regime especially in relation to data movement and the fast emerging Internet of Things.  

Feedback from the participants to the workshop was positive, they have welcomed the initiative and have asked the Commission to look more in detail into the issues related to data and  the Internet of Things - service markets, machines or autonomous systems generated data, issues of differentiation between personal and non -personal data etc.

Two full sessions were dedicated to the data location restrictions and other legal barriers to the free flow of data.

The sessions featured a set of presentations on a series of ongoing research and analysis work  on data location restriction currently performed by the London School of Economics and other.

A few of the points raised and discussed during the meeting regarded what constitutes grounds to justify data location restrictions, from a government point of view what are the justifications to maintain this sort of restrictions.

The head of Unit has confirmed that there is an ongoing discussion with the member states that are being consulted regarding these issue and there is concrete intiative taken on both sides to furtr the discussions. 

The closing session was dedicated to other barriers and emerging issues such as ownership, access and reuse, liability and interoperability and portability of data.


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