The public consultation on Building a European Data Economy ran from 10 January to 26 April 2017. This summary report takes stock of the contributions and presents preliminary trends that emerge from them, focusing on the quantitative aspects of the consultation input.

Objectives of the consultation

The objective of the consultation was to collect input to the future policy agenda on the European data economy. Part of a broader consultation process, the online consultation was based on the policy documents adopted in the Building a European Data Economy package on 10 January 2017.

The consultation centred on 4 issues:

  1. whether and how data localisation restrictions inhibit the free flow of data in Europe and how the issue should be resolved
  2. whether and to what extent digital non-personal machine-generated data are traded and exchanged, and what barriers, if any, exist, as well as their impact and possible solutions
  3. emerging challenges of the Internet of Things and robotics liability
  4. practices, issues and possible solutions relating to data portability, interoperability and standards

Respondents were free to contribute to whichever sections or questions they chose to, and also to submit position papers.

Who replied to the consultation?

The consultation targeted businesses of all sizes and sectors (including manufacturers and users of connected devices, operators and users of online platforms, data brokers, and businesses commercialising data-based products and services), but also public authorities, non-governmental organisations, researchers, research organisations and consumers. A quarter of the businesses that took part were small or medium enterprises (SMEs).

The online survey received a total of 380 responses including:

  • 332 responses from businesses / organisations
  • 6 responses from self-employed individuals
  • 42 responses from citizens

Respondents came from across the EU. However, respondents rarely replied to all questions, hence the sample varies across questions, even within each section. For this reason, for each topic, we indicate both the share and the actual number of respondents expressing their views.

We received 21 position papers either as a complement to questionnaire answers (3) or as a stand-alone contribution (18). This brings the overall number of contributions to the consultation to 398. These papers will be analysed and taken into account together with the statistical analysis of the questionnaire replies in the upcoming full report. This summary report focuses on the replies to the questionnaire.

Preliminary findings

Free Flow of Data

Regarding the data localisation issue and its scale, almost 63% of 318 respondents to this section of the public consultation confirm the existence of data localisation measures. A majority of the respondents point to high or medium impacts of such measures, specifically on costs (113 respondents see high or medium impacts vs. 14 seeing small impacts) or launching a new product or service (103 vs. 10). 37% of 253 respondents indicate that they as IT service providers have experienced demands by their customers for local data storage or processing, mostly due to an assumption or perception that they are required to do so. As for the potential solutions, 62% of 299 respondents are in favour of removing data localisation restrictions within the EU. While most prefer legislation as the type of action at EU level, other sizable groups of respondents favour guidance on data storage, processing within the EU, and increasing the transparency of data localisation restrictions.

Access and transfer

Three quarters of the 272 respondents to this section share their data to some extent. The majority of these respondents pass on data only inside the same economic group or to a subcontractor. Roughly a third share data more widely, either on the basis of relatively open re-use conditions or against payment of a licence fee. 57% of the 299 respondents who replied to the question indicate that they rely on data provided by other economic operators. 53% of the 283 respondents to the question report no difficulties in acquiring data from other businesses while 47% have experienced difficulties.

67% of the 287 respondents to the question believe wider data sharing should be facilitated and incentivised. A majority also believe that investments made into data generation and analysis should be safeguarded, and that businesses should retain the right to decide to whom and under what conditions they grant access to their data.

Most respondents do not support regulatory intervention, be it by creating ownership-type rights or by licensing obligations. 68% of 284 respondents to the question clearly support the increased use of APIs, and around a half state that, in some cases, providing non-binding guidance and sharing best practices could help. In some areas, a significant number of respondents call for some form of obligation to licence data access, in particular with respect to in-vehicle data and data generated in the context of smart farming.

Among 225 businesses / organisations responding to the section on "Access for public sector bodies and scientific research", some could agree to allowing public authorities to access their data – for specific purposes: to prevent public health risks (44%), for the access by statistical offices (41%), or for scientific research that is funded from public resources (39%). On the other hand, 35% would not agree to data sharing for any of the public interest purposes mentioned.

Liability

74% of 212 respondents to the question (producers and consumers) have rated contractual and extra-contractual liability as the most consumer-friendly type of product liability regime to deal with damage. Out of the 161 respondents to the question, 71% believe that contracts can partially or fully address the question of how to attribute liability.

In relation to the liability challenges presented, it appears that only a very limited number of respondents – around 5% of the 97 respondents to the question (producers) have so far been held liable for damages in the context of IoT and autonomous systems (e.g. robotics). Of the 232 respondents to the entire section on liability, 11 respondents (consumers and producers) identified the most frequent damages suffered as being economic losses (for example losses linked to a missed opportunity e.g. impossibility to work) and 5 as being pure economic loss, i.e. not linked to any property damage or personal injury.

Among the 18 respondents who acknowledged suffering damages from IoT or robotics, the main reason for them not to launch compensation procedures was the procedural costs being too high in relation to the damage suffered.

67% of 99 producer respondents to the question factor in the risk of being held liable for damages when deciding on the price of their IoT/robotics device. But results to the questionnaire also show that 51% of 92 producer respondents acknowledge not taking any insurance coverage to cover compensation claims in case of damages.

When asked whether a risk management approach in which the party that is best placed to minimise or avoid the realisation of the risk (e.g. the manufacturer of the IoT device, or the software designer) could be a way forward, 42% of 209 respondents to the question said yes, while 14% stated that they did not know, and 28% that they did not have sufficient information about what this approach would entail.

60% of the 138 respondents to the question (consumers/users) believe that an IoT/robotics device should be equipped with an event data recorder to track what the device was doing when the damage occurred.

A preliminary analysis of the 50 position papers covering liability reveals that 32 papers stated that the current liability framework is adequate to deal with the challenges resulting from new technologies such as IoT and autonomous systems, 8 papers called for a revision of the current framework, whereas the remaining papers discuss liability without concluding on the need to revise the current framework.  Also, all of the position papers from the insurance sectors underline that introducing compulsory insurance may increase costs for businesses and stifle innovation.

Portability, interoperability and standards

Most respondents hold neutral to positive attitudes towards current data portability conditions (27% out of 130 respondents are dissatisfied with such conditions). The most important advantages of data portability cited are the possibility to switch providers, derive value from the data and give access to third parties. Nevertheless, 38% of the 209 respondents to the question offer data portability to their clients. Half of 255 respondents were supportive of a data portability right for B2B, while 30% were against it, and 20% did not know if there was a specific business need for further data portability rights. Amongst the potentially positive effects, respondents list better access to data, increased innovation and competition, and reduced vendor lock-in. However, many point out possible negative effects, e.g. higher cost, stricter formatting rules and less flexibility. Both positive and negative effects on innovation are mentioned, depending on the case.

59% of the 143 cloud service provider respondents offer standard compliant solutions, while 81 % of the 200 user respondents prefer such solutions. The most prominent reasons to request standard compliant solutions are security, data and privacy protection and service interoperability. A majority of respondents believe common metadata schemes are important technical priorities to facilitate data access and discoverability, preferably implemented by improving existing standards. Guidelines are the preferred policy instrument to implement priorities, followed by EU regulation.

Contributions

Contributions to the consultation are available on this page and additional position papers sent in the framework of the consultation are available here.

Next steps

This online consultation is part of a broader dialogue process in which the Commission is consulting stakeholders, including through workshops. A full synospis report will proceed to a wrap-up of the entire structured dialogue and draw conclusions on these issues. It is planned to be published on the DSM website soon.