European Commission outlines plans to require Big Tech to share data

EU Commissioner, Thierry Breton

The European Commission has published a ‘European Strategy for Data’ document, in which it outlines plans to bring in legislation, if appropriate, to require what it calls ‘Big Tech’ companies, by which it means the likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon, to open up the data they hold to other companies, including rivals in their own fields.

The document notes that: “Currently, a small number of Big Tech firms hold a large part of the world’s data. This could reduce the incentives for data-driven businesses to emerge, grow and innovate in the EU today.”

Later it adds: “The high degree of market power resulting from the ‘data advantage’ can enable large players to set the rules on the platform and unilaterally impose conditions for access and use of data or, indeed, allow leveraging of such ‘power advantage’ when developing new services and expanding towards new markets.”

It goes on to say that “access to data should be made compulsory, where appropriate under fair, transparent, reasonable, proportionate and/or nondiscriminatory conditions.”

Later, in a section of the document outlining the Commission’s proposed strategy, it says: “The accumulation of vast amounts of data by Big Tech companies, the role of data in creating or reinforcing imbalances in bargaining power and the way these companies use and share the data across sectors is being analysed by the Observatory of the Online Platforms Economy… On the basis of this fact-finding, the Commission will consider how best to address more systemic issues related to platforms and data, including by ex ante regulation if appropriate, to ensure that markets stay open and fair.”

In a statement, the Commission said its objective in launching the Data Strategy is to make sure the EU becomes a role model and a leader for a society empowered by data, and to achieve this, it aims to create a true “European data space”. This, it says, will be a single market for data, to unlock unused data, allowing it to flow freely within the European Union and across sectors for the benefit of businesses, researchers and public administrations.

It goes on: “Citizens, businesses and organisations should be empowered to make better decisions based on insights gleaned from non-personal data. That data should be available to all, whether public or private, start-up or giant.”

“Our society is generating a huge wave of industrial and public data, which will transform the way we produce, consume and live,” said Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton. “I want European businesses and our many SMEs to access this data and create value for Europeans – including by developing Artificial Intelligence applications. Europe has everything it takes to lead the ‘big data race, and preserve its technological sovereignty, industrial leadership and economic competitiveness to the benefit of European consumers.”