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European Commission calls for cloud data protection law reforms

The Commission claims fragmented data protection laws area holding up the development of a single digital marketplace in Europe

The European economy stands to suffer if the data protection laws preventing the continent-wide take-up of cloud services remain in place, it has been claimed.

Speaking at the Datacloud Europe Event in Monaco on 3 June, Pearse O’Donohue, the European Commission’s (EC) head of software, services and cloud computing, said the use of off-premise technologies can bring numerous economic and productivity benefits to both startups and enterprises.

In the case of the former, cloud technologies can make it easier for new firms to get up and running without the need for upfront technology investments, which in turn paves the way for the creation of jobs in Europe and an overall increase in GDP.

However, there are numerous legislative barriers standing in the way that the Commission is seeking to address with its ongoing Digital Single Market push. This is geared towards the creation of a single marketplace for digital services in the European Union (EU).

“We need to ensure providers and users have access to the full European market, and the services are in competition with each other, which leads to greater innovation and lower cost,” said O'Donohue.

As it stands, startups and larger firms may be prohibited from using certain services or selling their wares to other member states because of differences in consumer protection laws and data sovereignty issues.

Shipping costs can also prohibit some firms from doing business in other countries, while website blocks are employed in some cases to prevent consumers purchasing goods and services from merchants operating in other member states.

Breaking down barriers

The Commission set out a number of proposals in May geared towards addressing these issues.

According to O'Donohue, access to cloud services fall under this remit, as the data protection legislation of some member states may ban them from using the services of a provider located elsewhere.

“This is an area where the EC and EU can play a role. It is clear that if we are to have rapid uptake of cloud services then we need a vibrant single market in which the areas of trust and confidence are addressed. These issues should not be tackled in a piecemeal approach from member state to member state,” he said.

“We are in the global economy and Europe needs to address that movement to not only catch up, but to overtake countries and economies in the rest of the world harnessing data technologies in a much more vibrant manner,” he added.

Therefore, changes must be introduced to enable the “free flow of data” across European borders, which O'Donohue described as a “primary and immediate” priority for the Commission.

“The biggest single contribution we can make is to remove existing national laws to ensure there is one marketplace,” he said.

“We seek, other than for legitimate reasons of personal data protection or matters of national security, to remove those barriers. That is a key issue for us if we are to talk about a single digital market,” he said.

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