A ‘fifth freedom’ of the EU: MEPs back an end to data localisation

MEPs voted on Thursday to (4 October) to support the final text on the free flow of non-personal data across the EU, hailed as a potential game changer for the digital economy. The regulation was adopted with overwhelming support in the European Parliament with 520 votes to 81.

The regulation, which was touted by the rapporteur for the file, Swedish EPP MEP, Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, as the ‘Fifth Freedom’ of the European Union, will remove geographical restrictions on the storage and processing of non-personal data in the internal market.

Speaking at a debate on the regulation on Wednesday, Corazza Bildt said:

“Next to the freedom of movement of people, goods, service and capital, it’s a game changer for the digital economy.”

“With the US and China moving fast…access to data for companies, especially for SMEs is crucial.”

“The time has come to stand up against data protectionism that is threatening our digital economy and society.”

Corazza Bildt added that the estimated GDP growth that will occur as part of an adoption is approximately €8 billion per year, an amount that is equal to the two free trade agreements between the EU and South Korea and Canada.

Restrictions in the field of data localisation will remain in place in the case of security threats to member states.

The adoption of the bill will please policymakers in the European Commission, who with this move one step further in the fulfilment of their priorities for the digital single market strategy.

Commissioner for the digital single market, Andrus Ansip, and Commissioner for the digital economy and society, Mariya Gabriel, said in a statement:

“With its vote, the European Parliament has sent a clear signal to all businesses of Europe: it makes no difference where in the EU you store and process your data – data localisation requirements within the member states are a thing of the past.”

Corazza Bildt was also keen to address concerns that the free-flow of personal data may negatively impact citizens’ right to privacy.

“The new law will not affect citizens’ privacy. The General Data Protection Regulation will remain untouched,” she said. “In the case of where personal and non-personal data are inextricably linked in a mixed data set, the free-flow of data will not prejudge GDPR.”

 

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