Europe is setting up data spaces around key sectors. Sector experts from the private and the public sector collaborate to define and govern data sharing practices and principles for compliant, secure, and fair re-use of data in these data spaces. The aim is to facilitate value creation, efficiency, and innovation. Technical aspects around interoperability and legal governance are key topics that have to answer sector-specific challenges. However, both are also key topics that have to be looked at across sectors.
“Standardisation needs are typically identified within sectors, but identification of needs is more difficult across sectors. Yet, a lot of untapped benefits of data are in re-use across sectors.” (Inception Impact Assessment Legislative framework for the governance of common European data spaces, Ref. Ares(2020)3480073 - 02/07/2020)
If terminology, codes of conduct, contract terms, technical standards, and vocabularies differ from sector to sector interoperability is impeded. How can we assure that the new data spaces are not the new data silos, we are trying to break down?
“This can lead to legislative fragmentation in the internal market and as a result, companies will be faced with a plethora of different rules and practices across the EU.” (Inception Impact Assessment Legislative framework for the governance of common European data spaces, Ref. Ares(2020)3480073 - 02/07/2020)
The data governance act will become a basis for the “horizontal” governance across data spaces. But how will the role of an overarching data spaces governor look like?
“The legal instrument would limit itself to aspects of horizontal nature or of cross-sector or cross-domain relevance and would allow for articulation with sector or domain-specific frameworks.” (Inception Impact Assessment Legislative framework for the governance of common European data spaces, Ref. Ares(2020)3480073 - 02/07/2020)
However, this legal instrument will surely not be a manual for data sharing in each situation. Similarly, how GDPR did not answer all sector-specific questions about personal data sharing, the regulation introduced a joint terminology and legal framework as a basis for public discourse and contract terms, which increased trust and mutual understanding. This can support data sharing inside and across the European data spaces. Clearly, this legal instrument for horizontal governance will have an impactful position and is yet to be outlined.