The rise of European Data

Research insights from Francesco’s fellowship at the Datapshere Initiative
November 1, 2022

Thirteen October 2022 marked the end of the first edition of the Datasphere Fellowship, a program incubated by the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network which allows graduate students and young professionals to work on novel research and dialogue related to data governance.

Francesco was among the 2021-2022 first cohort of Fellows and focused his research on the impact of the European strategy for data on global cross-border data flows. Over the course of his Fellowship, Francesco has written two blog posts respectively investigating the impact of the Data Governance Act and of the proposed Data Act on the emergence of a global data governance regime; and the final essay on the rise of a geographical approach to European data.

His research findings highlight the renewed geopolitical role of the Von der Leyen Commission in trying to maximize Europe’s global competitiveness in data regulatory debates. Both the Data Governance Act and the Data Act include new provisions that severely limit the transfer of non-personal data with third countries to prevent conflict with EU law. At the same time, they aim to increase data sharing between public and private sector bodies, and individuals as much as possible within the EU.

The consequences of such regulatory choices are twofold: on the one hand, the new rules aim at maximizing the storage of industrial data in the EU with an eye on increasing industrial investments in the continent, therefore increasing competitive advantage against the US and China. On the other hand, the new provisions can also be seen as a vector of direct influence on third countries’ legal regimes via the role played by the so-called “Brussels effect.” Accordingly, akin to previous experience with the GDPR in personal data protection, the EU would trigger legal emulation by the rest of the world through internal market regulation.

But there is also one more consequence sparking from the new provisions adopted by the Data Governance Act and the Data Act, namely the rise of what could be seen as a “geographical approach to European data.” In a nutshell, European data would minimize differences between personal and non-personal data and focus instead on its geographical provenance, where access by third countries can only be ensured with corresponding degrees of protection. This development bears important implications for pursuing an open internet at the data-stack level, as international data sharing agreements would take place in regional settings and between like-minded countries. In this light, a geographical approach to data could either further ongoing data fragmentation or foster the emergence of a transnational open internet in a variety of glocal shapes. Here, the role of Brussels’ effect will be crucial in either contributing to legal distance or convergence.

Francesco discussed his findings in “Think global, act responsibly. Research insights for the Datasphere” – the event wrapping the first edition of the Datasphere Fellowship, which took place on 13 October 2022.


Read the Essay

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