The European Parliament (EP) approved the European Governance Data Act (DGA) on Wednesday with 501 votes to 12. This act aims to increase data sharing among public institutions and companies, create new rules on the neutrality of data marketplaces and facilitate the reuse of certain data held by the public sector.
The EU Governance Act is the first data regulation approved within the EU Data Strategy. The European Union is trying to set up a common European data space that would allow companies and public institutions to share data in strategic domains such as health, the environment, energy, agriculture, mobility or finance.
“Our goal with the DGA is to set the foundation for a data economy in which people and businesses can trust. Data sharing can only flourish if trust and fairness are guaranteed, stimulating new business models and social innovation,” said lead MEP Angelika Niebler.
Under this bill, public sector bodies will be able to share or refuse access for the reuse of certain categories of data, but they will have to make publicly available the conditions for allowing such reuse to avoid exclusivities or favoritism to a particular company. The categories of data public bodies can share include: data protected on grounds of commercial confidentiality, including business professional and company secrets; statistical confidentiality; the protection of intellectual property rights and certain personal data. Public bodies will have to grant access for reuse of data in a non-discriminatory, transparent, proportionate and objectively justified manner.
The purpose of the bill is to make public data accessible to companies and citizens to unlock the potential of artificial intelligence. However, the regulation does not create any obligation for public sector bodies to allow the reuse of data — it encourages them to share the data on a voluntary basis, in an anonymized format (including synthetic data) and respecting other laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation or Copyright legislation.
“We are at the beginning of the age of AI, and Europe will require more and more data. This legislation should make it easy and safe to tap into the rich data silos spread all over the EU. The data revolution will not wait for Europe. We need to act now if European digital companies want to have a place among the world’s top digital innovators,” said lead MEP Angelika Niebler
An interesting provision in the law is that public sector bodies can charge fees for allowing the reuse of such data. Fees should be transparent and non-discriminatory, but the act doesn’t establish any limit on the amount of the fee public institutions may charge. The only suggestion is for non-commercial purposes such as scientific research and for small and medium enterprises or startups to make the data available for free or at a discounted fee.
The act also lays down the requirements that “data intermediation services” need to comply with to access data held by public sector bodies. Companies seeking access to data must be established in the European Union. If the company is not established in the Union but provides data intermediation services, it has to designate a legal representative in one of the member states. For those companies that comply with the law, they will be able to use a common European logo certifying their compliance in an attempt to generate more trust in data-sharing.
The DSA will now have to be formally adopted by Council before it is published in the Official Journal and enters into force.