Europe wants single data market to break US tech giants’ dominance

A file photo dated 02 October 2008 shows visitors standing in the computer centre of the CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, near Geneva, Switzerland. [EPA/MARTIAL TREZZINI]

The European Union wants to create a single market in data aimed at challenging the dominance of tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Amazon, according to a European Commission proposal seen by Reuters.

The proposal, which includes reining in big online platforms and could still be tweaked ahead of their presentation on Feb. 19, underlines the EU’s determination to break U.S. tech giants’ stranglehold on vast troves of data and better compete with Chinese rivals.

“Currently a small number of big tech firms hold a large part of the world’s data. This is a major weakness for data-driven businesses to emerge, grow and innovate today, including in Europe, but huge opportunities lie ahead,” a paper laying out the proposal said.

The 25-page document also underlined the urgency of the task ahead.

“Competitors such as China and the U.S. are already innovating quickly and projecting their concepts of data access and use across the globe,” it said.

By capitalizing on Europe’s vast quantities of industrial and professional data and technological innovation, the bloc can surge ahead, the document said.

“The winners of today will not necessarily be the winners of tomorrow,” according to the paper.

It said the objective is “to create a single European data space, a genuine single market for data”.

Measures to achieve that goal include an array of new rules covering cross-border data use, data interoperability and standards related to manufacturing, climate change, the auto industry, healthcare, financial services, agriculture and energy.

Other rules in the coming months will open up more public data on geospatial, the environment, meteorology, statistics and companies’ data across the bloc for companies to use for free.

The document also proposed scraping relevant competition rules which hinder data sharing and possibly introducing rules to prevent large online platforms from unilaterally imposing conditions for access and use of data or benefiting in a disproportionate manner.

The European Commission and an expert group set up last year to assist it are now looking into the vast amount of data collected by big tech companies and the way they use and share the data.

“On the basis of this fact finding, the Commission will consider how best to address more systemic issues, including by ex ante regulation if appropriate, to ensure that markets stay open and fair,” the paper said.

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