EU Data Act: why sharing isn’t always caring

The EU Data Act aims to facilitate access to and use of data. But what kind of data? Paolo Falcioni, APPLiA Director General, was invited to present at the European Forum for Manufacturing on the make or break factors of the EU Data Act.

The EU Data Act aims to facilitate access to and use of data. But what kind of data? Let’s take the case of a washing machine, where generated data must be made available to the user. Would this be the memory dump of all data generated by the microprocessor? The washing habits? “The definition of data, as provided in the text, could be applied to all of the above,” explained Paolo Falcioni, APPLiA Director General. This is the first arising issue when approaching the cornerstone proposal of the digital strategy for Europe, advanced by the European Commission. 

Today, data is produced at an unprecedented rate. From people to businesses, connected devices collect and transmit an ever-increasing volume of personal and non-personal data as we complete our daily tasks. The importance of data cannot be underestimated. The very fact that we have an EU Data Act striving towards making Europe a data-driven economy, makes evident its importance. “If we all agree that there is value in data, then we should also acknowledge that data-sharing, when it comes to business-to-business relations, should be part of a commercial transaction,” pointed out Falcioni. Here, once the value of data is understood between two parties, any transaction which takes place between the two must be regulated by a contract, not a law. Legislation should never be utilised as a means to force data disclosure. This is the ‘golden-rule’ to support a thriving European Single Market. 

Innovation is the backbone of the development of the home appliance industry in Europe. It is the best means of ensuring the market remains competitive whilst simultaneously furthering the technological and environmental affordances today’s appliances can offer towards achieving Europe’s digital transition. Therefore, innovation must be preserved at all costs. “Third-party access to data holder data risks becoming a ‘trojan horse’ which could result in the reverse engineering of products,” detailed Falcioni. As currently proposed, the protection of intellectual property rights is vaguely eluded to in the Act, with much needing to be clarified. Investment into research and design of the home appliance sector has taken years, alongside substantial investment to create such a robust industry found today. Under any circumstances, a law can depower that effort. 

Fairness in the allocation of data value among actors lies at the heart of a successful implementation of the EU Data Act and is key to avoiding the creation of winners and losers in any data sharing. If companies are obligated, by law, to share their data, competitiveness in Europe could cease to exist, leaving Europe faltering behind in the global technological race. 

Paolo Falcioni, APPLiA Director General, was invited to present at the European Forum for Manufacturing on the make or break factors of the EU Data Act, in a panel featuring the participation of representatives from the EU Institutions and relevant industry experts.