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09 December 2021

BDB: Data economy – we need a new cross-sector data framework

The availability of big data is also indispensable for the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning – both future technologies of critical importance and both technologies where the US and China have a clear head start in development and deployment.

Nothing works without data: they are at the heart of value creation in a digital economy and now more than ever a strategic production and competitive factor that is decisive to a company’s economic success. The availability of big data is also indispensable for the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning – both future technologies of critical importance and both technologies where the US and China have a clear head start in development and deployment. Access to data and the ability to reuse them are therefore rightly seen as key prerequisites for the technology leadership of tomorrow and for a competitive EU data economy that will strengthen Europe’s digital sovereignty and benefit both consumers and businesses throughout Europe.

When it comes to data-driven innovation, it is becoming increasingly important for companies not only to use data they have generated themselves or to exchange data within a certain industry but also to better understand and satisfy customer needs with the help of data from very different areas of application. For many reasons, however, this still poses practical difficulties for banks and other businesses. These reasons include a lack of access to data outside a firm’s own business or lack of knowledge thereof, heterogeneous data formats, non-existent technical interfaces and uncertainty about the legal framework governing the use of data, especially with regard to personal data. All of this means companies have to expend huge resources before seeing or realising a commercial benefit, which is why they often do not even attempt to generate new added value for customers by consolidating data from diverse sources. On top of that, many companies ask themselves whether they themselves would benefit at all from a data economy or whether they might ultimately suffer competitive disadvantages from giving up their data and while others capitalised on greater data mobility.

What can be concluded from these observations? The framework governing a data economy must be created in such a way that it gives all market participants equal opportunities. It should not further market asymmetries but instead help to eliminate existing imbalances. It should enable as many companies as possible to exploit the enormous potential of big data analytics and artificial intelligence. This will require an appropriate legal framework that promotes data sharing under fair conditions for all market participants. The goal should equally be to preserve trade secrets and the protection of personal data, thus strengthening data sovereignty.

The Association of German Banks believes the first step should be to create a European legal framework that enables data to be shared across different businesses and industries while taking a differentiated approach.

1. A cross-sector (B2B) data sharing framework should be established for personal and non-personal data. Businesses in all industries should be required to share the data provided to them by a natural or legal person via standardised mechanisms in real time if the person so requests. To safeguard a level playing field and preserve proprietary rights, care should be taken to ensure that this obligation applies only to data provided by the data subject and not to derived or refined data processed by the company. The latter category should be reserved for disclosure on a separate contractual basis. Further conditions will also need to be set with respect to aspects such as security and liability.

2. Existing technical and legal barriers to the exchange of non-personal data (= anonymised data, non-confidential business data) should be removed. This should be achieved, among other things, by creating greater legal clarity in areas such as anonymisation and, where necessary, easing data protection rules. Data cooperation in the form of data pooling, for example, is a major success factor for gaining new insights from the analysis of a wide range of data and for tapping the potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning for research and business in Europe. Ultimately, this also benefits consumers and society as a whole. Where corporate data are involved, it will continue to be the company in its capacity as the owner of a trade secret that decides whether or not to permit access to its data.

3. National and European open data strategies should rigorously promote access to public data. To this end, electronic access options should be established, interfaces with public data sources standardised and access points in the public sector consolidated to reduce transaction costs and make the data available for the broadest possible use. In some areas, the public sector could also take on the role of a central data intermediary by establishing a data exchange platform, especially in spheres where it operates corresponding central infrastructures to perform its public responsibilities.

To stimulate a European data economy, there is not least a need for appropriate collaboration platforms or forums that encourage dialogue between different sectors and stakeholders, promote the establishment of cross-sector data ecosystems and provide valuable impetus for the further development of a legal and institutional framework. The European Gaia-X[1] data and infrastructure platform is a promising example. This and similar initiatives should continue to be supported by policymakers and the public sector.


© BDB - Bundesverband Deutscher Banken

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