Issues Decoded: EU Event Charts a Course on Digital Policy

Monday 15 July, 2019

Digital Assembly emphasises individual and consumer concerns

Digital Assembly, one of the European Union’s largest tech policy events, recently took place in Bucharest, Romania. This year, the conference focused on the EU’s long-term strategic priorities in the digital space and uncovered likely drivers for policy agendas over the 2019–2024 term.

 Three points to keep in mind:

  • Europe’s quest for technological leadership, autonomy and global competitiveness has recently received priority status in official documents as the EU seeks to boost European companies’ competitive edge while aiming to set or enforce international standards to level the playing field with non-EU competitors.
  • Tech rules are becoming increasingly horizontal, as they apply to all digitised industries (energy, manufacturing, healthcare, etc.).
  • Europe’s vision of the digital ecosystem tends to be principled, namely human-centric and consumer-oriented (for example: the General Data Protection Regulation or the Ethics Guidelines for Artificial Intelligence).

Policy trends to watch:

  • Accelerating the digitalisation of industries: Europe wants to buttress its traditionally strong industries by encouraging the digital transformation of processes and the uptake of new and disruptive technologies (i.e. supercomputers, AI, and quantum technologies). As the proofing of legal framework is part of that ambition, expect new rules, as well as, a review of existing ones (e.g. bills on machinery standards, on contracts, and consumer rights). These might affect both technology and non-technology fields.
  • Boosting competition through access to data: EU regulators believe that due to control over wider datasets, some non-EU businesses are more competitive or dominant. Thus, they are considering how to make companies share their data and how to create common data spaces for businesses to easily get information (energy and manufacturing sectors are current priorities). At the same time, they will put mergers and acquisitions of data-rich companies under tighter scrutiny for their impact on privacy.
  • Framing data monetisation and online advertisement: Discussions on the monetisation of data collected through analytics technologies or online cookies have been ongoing for some time and could result in new law proposals over the upcoming EU legislative term. In such a scenario, the move would not only target digital platforms and similar data-fuelled businesses, but also potentially affect all entities relying on ad-tech, analytics, and other data-based markets.
  • Redeploying liability rules in the digital economy: In line with Europe’s human-centric approach to digital ecosystems, the EU is looking to update their liability standards for products and services enabled by new technologies. However, the debate on platform liability is bound to get heated and new rules may result in more companies being affected than just the tech giants, additionally, they may be harder to comply with.
  • Promoting cyber resilience: The cybersecurity of goods and services is becoming crucial for their commercialisation. However, in order to tackle the vulnerabilities created by the increasing digitisation and the interconnectedness of markets the EU has come up with a comprehensive plan based on both international cooperation and adopting a regulatory framework. They have established a voluntary-based cybersecurity certification scheme, and may make it mandatory for a specific pool of products over time.
  • Tech for sustainability: As environment protection and sustainability are becoming European and global priorities, we see an increasing synergy between the energy and digital industries. Decision-makers are looking both at how tech can support the planet’s sustainability and at how to reduce the energy-consumption of technology products and data-centres.

As with other large-scale phenomena, the EU will have an important role in guiding technology-related regulatory processes to ensure change is embraced effectively. Setting a more ethics and values-based approach to legislation, the EU will be able to distinguish itself from the rest of the world.

Written by: Laurent Chokouale Datou, Chairman, EU Public Affairs, Anna Tobur, Account Director, and Claudia Trivilino, Manager at Weber Shandwick Brussels. Article edited by Jennifer Shang.

If you would like any further information on this issue, please do not hesitate to get in contact with LAURENT CHOKOUALÉ DATOU Chairman, EU Public Affairs lchokouale@webershandwick.com