Privacy regulators want changes to the Data Act

If it is up to the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), the European Commission will amend the Data Act. The supervisors of the EU Member States point out that the legislation should not affect the protection of personal data that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) currently offers. Furthermore, governments should not be given too broad powers to demand personal data from private parties.

The European privacy supervisors write this in a joint advice to the European Commission.

European Commission aims for data union

The Data Act or Data Regulation is a legislative proposal from the European Commission to promote data sharing. The idea behind this is that citizens of EU Member States can share information more easily and quickly with European government institutions, companies and other public and private bodies. People not only have more control over their own data, but they also have to be able to arrange things more easily.

Two concrete examples for sharing data in an EU context are the EU wallet and the European Health Data Space (EHDS). The EU wallet is an initiative to digitally store your ID, driver’s license, marriage certificate and other important documents. Booking a hotel, proving your age in a bar or buying alcohol and cigarettes should therefore be possible in no time.

If it is up to the European Commission, the EHDS will become “one of the central building blocks” of a strong European Health Union. If you are on holiday or visiting somewhere in the EU and you have lost your medication, it is no problem to get a repeat prescription and a new dose of medication. Simply put, the Commission is trying with the EHDS to create a European electronic health record that you can use throughout the EU.

Solid legal framework

The Data Regulation should not only make life easier for citizens in the EU. The European Commission also wants to make it possible to share data anonymously with researchers, scientists and developers of smart devices. In this way, they get more tools to develop future applications or life-saving treatments.

This requires a solid legal framework. That is exactly what the European Commission is trying to achieve with the Data Regulation. National supervisors play an important role in the implementation and monitoring of this legislation in the Member States. United and represented in the EDPB and EDPS, they have the necessary criticisms of the current bill.

GDPR should take precedence over Data Act

The biggest criticism of the Data Act is that there can be ambiguity about the applicability of the GDPR. The European supervisors are also afraid that the Data Regulation will affect the rights and obligations laid down in privacy legislation. “The purpose of the Data Act is to encourage the sharing of data as much as possible, and this may also involve personal data,” argues the Dutch Data Protection Authority.

The Dutch privacy watchdog believes that the GDPR should always take precedence if personal data has to be shared. So if the Data Act stipulates that an organization or agency must share user data, this must first be tested against the GDPR. Therefore, it should be clearly stated in the Data Regulation that the GDPR applies and takes precedence when it comes to sharing personal data.

The European regulators also believe that the Data Act gives governments too much room to demand personal data from companies. In addition, insufficient safeguards have been built in to protect the privacy of citizens. In ‘exceptional circumstances, such as a natural disaster or an epidemic, companies are obliged to share data with governments, according to the data regulation. “When exactly this obligation applies and what data it concerns, has not been described clearly enough,” according to the Dutch Data Protection Authority.

Continuation of Data Regulation

The European Commission presented the Bill for the Data Act in February 2022. The European privacy regulators have expressed their opinion on the proposal in joint advice. The European Council and the European Parliament can now have their say on the bill.

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