The European Commission’s review must bring the Digital Single Market strategy back on track

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By Jean-Marc Leclerc, Government and Regulatory Affairs Executive, IBM

IBM, in its long history, has witnessed a lot of digitalization and defined some of it. When the Digital Single Market strategy was launched in 2015, our experience taught us that that the journey from ambition to reality could be bumpy. Vigorous and inclusive debate is to be expected and welcomed. We continue to support the European Commission’s ambition for the Digital Single Market Strategy and applaud its successes to date. But as the European Commission opens up a review of the DSM, it’s time to raise a flag.

Jean-Marc Leclerc

IBM’s Jean-Marc Leclerc

The goal of the Digital Single Market strategy is not up for discussion. Allowing 500 million EU citizens and millions of large and small businesses to live and operate cross border in the digital world as they would in the physical world offers the EU an unmissable opportunity to grow and prosper. Yet that goal is imperiled. While some policy approaches such as those on Digitizing Industry and on Platforms will move us closer to a DSM, others will ensure it never happens.

The free flow of data is the fuel system for a Digital Single Market. The ability of organizations to gather and use data from across the EU will determine whether or not Europe is serious about being in the vanguard of the data revolution. The EU must act now to guarantee the free movement of data across the EU and the only viable way to do so –  as requested by a majority of national governments –  is for the European Commission to put forward a regulation establishing the principle of the free movement of data.

Paradoxically, an incredible amount of time and energy is being spent on discussing potential gaps in the legal framework in areas such as data ownership and liability in IoT when the evidence shows that there is no market failure. Instead, the European Commission must focus its energy on issues like free flow of data that are crying out for a solution.

In a move that will strangle research, the EU’s copyright proposal states that only organizations practicing scientific research on a not-for-profit basis or for public interest can mine for data, excluding other entities from benefiting from such an exception even if they have lawful access to the content. This short-sighted approach to Text and Data Mining will drive away start-ups, prohibit universities from research collaboration with non-academia and lessen the opportunity for Europeans to benefit from innovation. The copyright proposal must be changed  to allow all entities that have lawful access, including companies, carry out text and data mining for any purpose.

Those of us involved in Internet of Things innovation are perplexed by the inclusion of IoT in the scope of the ePrivacy proposal. IoT data is comprehensively covered in both the General Data Protection Regulation and the Network and Information Security Directive. Adding a third layer of legislation risks generating a quagmire of rules and causing serious confusion. IoT should be excluded from the ePrivacy proposal as soon as possible.

We are encouraged that Vice-President Ansip will review the DSM process. We are confident that the European Commission will listen to the DSM supporters that are working every day to create Europe’s digital future. We remain optimistic that courageous political resolve will deliver a Digital Single Market for Europe.


Media Contact:
Adam R. Pratt
Ph: (202) 551-9625


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