“The EU’s New Industrial Data Rulebook, Why It Matters and What it Means for You”

The European Commission set out a new proposition anticipated at regulating industrial data, including who can access and share data generated by smart devices.

Part of the EU’s data strategy plan presented in February 2020, is expected to receive negative feedback from a range of sectors, including the car industry, due to the introduction of “data-sharing obligations.”

The expansion of smart devices connected to cars, smart home appliances and factory robots has raised worrying concerns about who owns and can access the data they generate — the manufacturer, the user or third parties.

It has become apparent that machine-generated data devices are underused because of the legal uncertainty involved. “In the past when you bought an object this was quite simple. You owned the object and everything that came with it,” a Commission official stated ahead of the new rules’ reveal. “But now data has made it more difficult, because, actually, who’s in control of the data that you generate with connected objects?” 

In the new rulebook’s proposal, the Commission suggests giving users more rights to access data generated by these devices and to share it under certain conditions with third parties of their choosing, such as repair-service providers.

This ultimately opens up possibilities for the aftermarket, when a user seeks additional services, products or repair services, but in turn prompts industry concerns regarding the extent to which one will have to share data access with independent services providers.

“The Data Act defines who can use what data and under what conditions,” Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager stated, saying that connected machines or devices “if used” can create “multitude of possibilities.” 

Furthermore, the Data Act intends to promote data-sharing with governments, with the purpose of preventing and addressing emergencies. Data processing services will also have to take technical measures to avoid unlawful requests for data access in non-EU countries and cloud providers will have to authorize customers with access to easily switch to another provider. 

Tech and industry campaigns took aim at the Data Act’s data-sharing obligations before its presentation. Brussels tech lobby CCIA proposed that “incentives rather than obligations” would encourage companies to share data, while German engineering lobby VDMA highlighted the importance of freedom-of-contract guidelines and the current practice of negotiating data access between companies through private contracts.

There is also a major concern about potential economic defects from “safeguards”, restricting data processing services from fulfilling access requests from third countries not in line with EU law. According to a study commissioned by CCIA, such “restrictions” might cost 0.6 percent of EU GDP. 

Multiple Parliament committees are expected to fight over who gets jurisdiction over the case and Germany’s position will be on the lookout by the Council, given its powerful car industry and engineering sector.

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