Is EURIM about to become the Digital Single Market champion?

The draft Data Protection Regulation contains “necessary ambiguities” in order to achieve agreement on “harmonisation”. Those ambiguities create yet more legal and regulatory uncertainty confusion of the type that make its easier to organise cross border transactions via services based in the USA. The consequences get in the way of the Digital Single Market. They help drive billions, perhaps tens of billions, of taxable revenues off shore. They are a significant factor in European economic stagnation.

Are the ambiguities necessary to secure agreement on wording really worth the cost?

Or should we accept that  “unison” is impossible, scrap the drive to “harmonisation” and instead focus on that which gets in the way of a Digital Single Market and of economic recovery, let alone renewed growth.

The accronym EURIM, originally stood for “European Informatics Market”. The founders believed the focus of European policy should be to create a genuine free trade area. Malcolm Harbour MEP (one of the Directors of EURIM)  recently chaired a round table in London to look at the issues that need to be addressed in order to make a reality of the Digital Single Market meeting and the contribution that EURIM and its members could make, working in co-operation with the members of the European Internet Foundation.

This agreed three strands of work,

  • to review the initatives on Data Protection, Sharing, Surveillance etc
  • to look at cross-border Payment,Tax and Dispute Resolution and
  • to look at cross-border IPR issues (e.g. why can’t you use BBC iPlayer in Brussels)

The wording of the report of the first meeting of the sub-group tasked to look at the Data Protection initiatives is polite – for example:

“There is a need to update data protection law, to fix obvious problems and help make a reality of the single market as an attractive place in which to locate and do business. Most of the concerns expressed by the Group relate to ambiguities and lack of clarity and consistency in definitions, including of personal data, leading to different interpretations with the risk that these can only be resolved in the courts. Lack of clarity also means the cost of compliance cannot be known with any certainty. This could not only get in the way of the further development of a Digital Single Market but could increase the incentive to organisations which wish to sell across national borders to base the operations involved outside the reach of the directives.”

The underlying reality is, however, devastating in its economic impact.

It looks as though part of the forward programme of EURIM, as it moves from being “the very “model of a modern lobby” (note the omission of the word “group” because it is the lobby, not one of the groups jostling for position) to “The Information Society Alliance“, will be the creation of a cross-cutting “Digital Single Market” work stream.

The challenge is to get uppliers of on-line products and services (currently obsessing about “communications data retention”) to recognise the need to work alongside their customers (who are similarly affected by irational and conflicting requirements to retain, secure or delete  transaction content) and the consumer groups (who want genuine choice).  

The prize is a genuine digital single market and economic growth. Are they up for it. Or is it easier and more profitable to go with flow and move operations to the USA, Canada or the Far East – from Hong Kong to Sydney, from Singpaore to Mumbai?