02 July, 2014

Press release: Big data: an opportunity to improve quality of life and competitiveness in Europe

ETNO calls for right balance between privacy and innovation

2 July 2014, Brussels – ETNO welcomes the European Commission’s Communication “Towards a Thriving Data-Driven Economy” to foster the development of a data driven economy and the creation of a Big Data ecosystem in Europe which aims to facilitate the deployment of successful initiatives around the use of data for the benefit of society as a whole.

ETNO Chairman Luigi Gambardella said: “Big Data services are an important ingredient of our future digital life and Europe cannot afford to stray from this path, which will ultimately lead to new jobs and a better social environment for all. European citizens’ quality of life and European competiveness are at stake”.

ETNO believes that a more vigorous boost from the European Commission is needed to develop the European Big Data industry, addressing the new challenges related to Big Data, creating fruitful collaborative partnerships to strengthen the data community and looking for the right balance between innovation and privacy. As recognised by the Commission in its Communication, the European digital economy has been slow to embrace the data revolution and we cannot risk falling further behind other international economies, such as the US, which have been quick to rise to the opportunity.

ETNO agrees that, from a regulatory point of view, a good approach would be to create and gather best practices around Big Data and welcomes the European Commission’s intention to consult interested stakeholders with a view to adopting adequate guidance, on issues such as data anonymisation and pseudonymisation.

Privacy in Big Data is indeed one of the big challenges and we must look for the right balance between privacy protection and innovation. ETNO is convinced that citizens’ trust is a key element of a well-functioning data-driven economy and a successful EU single market in Big Data. In this sense, the future General Data Protection Regulation, once adopted, is not the “solution” itself but rather is just part of the overall solution for Big Data treatment.

What it is most important for Europe is a trusted environment where privacy is ensured by contractual and organizational measures, leading to a high level of protection of personal data.  We must aim for a trust-based environment supported by modern ex-post regulatory tools and based on a risk assessment approach which considers not only how data is collected but how it is used. More work needs to be done at EU level regarding IPR issues (eg: database rights), how Internet of Things data streams can be used and the development of concepts such as data subject ownership.

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