Better Regulation - Action 7: Access and reuse of private sector data of general interest by the public authorities

  • Cristina (Commu... profile
    Cristina (Commu...
    5 February 2018 - updated 4 months ago
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Non-personal data is increasingly generated through Internet of Things (IoT) and machine to machine (M2M) solutions. In many cases, this data is strategic, and crucial for the daily management of the city and for the development of new and innovative services and solutions.

Businesses produce private data of general interest. This data presents an opportunity for public administrations in terms of improvement of their public policies and service delivery. City authorities often externalise the management of public spaces and services to private companies. These services rely on the collection and use of data. Data collected in public spaces can be crucial for preventive measures supporting public health and safety, improving urban planning, traffic management and managing energy supply. It supports local authorities’ decision-making processes and the provision of essential services to citizens.  Public authorities have begun experimenting with the use of aggregated and anonymised data analytics to discover insights that can guide better and more targeted policy decisions or improve public service delivery. To serve these purposes, public sector cannot just rely on their own public data. Other kinds of data held by private companies, such as telecommunications operators, online platforms or social media, or data generated by sensor-equipped, connected IoT devices could enhance the analytical insights and greatly benefit the public sector with economic savings and more efficiency. Where private data of general interest includes personal data, the processing must be in full compliance with the GDPR.

The possibility to allow that public authorities access private sector data of public interest was first mentioned in the January 2017 Communication "Building a European Data Economy" and, subsequently in the May 2017 Digital Single Market Midterm Review, as an area for which the Commission committed to further exploration. This policy issue was therefore included in the recent online consultation on the review of the Public-Sector Information (PSI) Directive (Sept. – Dec. 2017), and is one of the actions to be addressed in the upcoming 2018 Data Package. Businesses also believe they should receive a fair compensation given the costs of setting the data infrastructure. Various actions to solve these issues could be envisaged ranging from regulation (e.g. cross-sectorial or only applied to specific sectors such as statistics) to public private partnerships.

At present, access to data generated by machines or through products and services is often limited, or unavailable, when the data is managed by private companies. Vendor lock-in practices hamper the development of innovative ecosystems and create interoperability issues that prevent the efficient (re)-use of data in and across cities in Europe. Current legislation does not guarantee free access by public authorities to data generated in the cities if not agreed in advance in specific contractual rules. Public authorities, citizens and local businesses must have access to data collected in public spaces where this would be in the general interest and would improve the functioning of cities.


In January 2017 the Commission adopted the 'Building a European Data Economy' Communication where it addressed, among other issues, the opportunities and challenges related to access and re-use of data. It announced a structured dialogue with stakeholders, which included a public consultation and a series of workshops.

The Midterm Review of the Digital Single Market Strategy mandated to follow up on the January Communication and explore further the issue of public bodies' access to privately held data of public interest. In a number of scenarios, public sector bodies could significantly improve their decision making if they were able to use commercially-held information, notably for the purpose of public health policy, spatial and urban planning, natural and technological risk management, managing energy supply grids or protecting the environment.

This action aims at guaranteeing the development of a harmonised EU regulatory framework based on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms to provide public authorities, public agencies and bodies, citizens and local businesses to access to and re-use of data collected in public spaces for the development of new services and solutions for and in cities.


Proposal for an EU regulation on access to and re-use of data by public authorities to data generated and collected in public spaces.


Preparation of a proposal for an EU regulation. The action is addressed to the EU institutions (European Commission, European Parliament and Council). The preparation of the proposal would include necessary background work, such as studies and piloting cases to find out impact of the proposal.


To be discussed

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