On 23 February 2022, the European Commission published its long-awaited legislative proposal for a new Data Act. The proposal marks a significant shift in the EU’s approach to the data economy. It aims to challenge the constitution of data monopolies across various sectors, by reshaping existing power structures that favour large data incumbents and moving to solidify data as a non-rival good.
Drawing on desk research and a series of interviews conducted with key experts in Brussels, this CEPS Policy Insights paper proposes to unpack this new legislative proposal by exploring its genealogy, the key policy issues at stake, and identifying the main expected political drivers for the negotiations to come.
Despite the Commission’s intentions to address market concentration and limit the EU’s over-reliance on foreign companies in data-intensive sectors, Member States and European industry’s cautious approach to the proposal is indicative of greater challenges to come.
The Data Act’s broad territorial reach, revolutionary approach to data access, and extensive technical specifications is expected to have broad implications for citizens, companies and public authorities alike, inside and outside the EU. Upcoming negotiations will be shaped primarily by the outcome of fierce battles between large US-based data incumbents and European actors over the control of their data, complex arbitrages at the Member States’ level in prioritising the contradictory interests of dominant national champions and smaller companies in relation to data access, and strong political divides on the opportunity to further the digital sovereignty agenda at EU level.