Insights European Commission publishes report on the contributions made to its consultation on the regulatory environment for data and cloud computing.

The Commission carried out a web-based public consultation on platforms, the liability of intermediaries, data and the cloud, and on the collaborative economy, which ran from 24 September 2015 to 6 January 2016.

The feedback received showed that data location restrictions are affecting people’s use of data services and affecting business strategies.  Action is therefore needed.  While the majority of respondents considered that there were some justifiable grounds for data location restrictions under strict rules, such as national and public security, business respondents emphasised that data location restrictions can be a barrier to the development of the data economy and the competitiveness of industry in Europe.  Some also said that restrictions on data location could increase data security risk.

The majority of respondents considered that the existing legal framework and current practices for access to and use of data are not fit for purpose in the EU.  While consumer groups and individual citizens clearly supported the need for legal clarity, just over 50% of business respondents (including a significant group of business users) said that the current framework on access and use was not fit for purpose to facilitate the free flow of data.

Respondents identified a number of constraints on the development of data markets in Europe.  There was also acceptance of the need for legal certainty in order to stimulate investment.  Business respondents favoured soft measures that facilitate business opportunities in the context of emerging data markets, together with guidance in relation to legal uncertainties over access and use.

Almost half of respondents said that they had encountered problems stemming from an unclear liability regime in relation to data and the Internet of Things.  The majority of individuals and consumer associations said that the present legal framework for liability was not satisfactory.  The overall majority of respondents confirmed that there is a need for action to address liability issues for IoT services at EU level in order to ensure the roll out of such services and the free flow of data.  Additionally, almost two thirds of users considered the regulatory framework to be unsatisfactory.

As for the European Cloud initiative, respondents considered security and protection of users’ data critical.  Cloud service providers and users (including business users) had opposing views on transparency and fair contractual practices.  Cloud users were sensitive about the protection of their data and considered that contractual terms lacked transparency.  Cloud providers, on the other hand, considered that their contract terms were sufficiently transparent and fair and that users were sufficiently protected by EU law.

As for open access to data, respondents said that interoperability issues and the introduction of the principle of “open by default” for public sector data were the main areas for improvement.  More than four fifths of respondents considered that data generated by research was not sufficiently accessible and re-usable.  They supported a default “Open Science” policy to make data generated by publicly funded research available through open access.

The majority of respondents recognised the economic benefits of ensuring interoperability and data portability (particularly with regard to switching providers).  Many respondents considered that a self-regulatory approach would be more appropriate with regards to cloud-based services and that model contracts could be a useful tool for building users’ trust.  Respondents also saw the benefits of a “European Open Science Cloud”, which would facilitate access and make publicly funded research data accessible and re-usable.

The findings will feed into the various initiatives currently being prepared by the Commission in relation to its Digital Single Market Strategy.  To access the findings as set out in the Commission’s report, click here.