Public Data Commons: A public-interest framework for B2G data sharing in the Data Act

Policy Brief by Alek Tarkowski & Francesco Vogelezang: “It is by now a truism that data is a crucial resource in the digital era. Yet today access to data and the capacity to make use of data and to benefit from it are unevenly distributed. A new understanding of data is needed, one that takes into account a society-wide data sharing and value creation. This will solve power asymmetries related to data ownership and the capacity to use it, and fill the public value gap with regard to data-driven growth and innovation.

Public institutions are also in a unique position to safeguard the rule of law, ensure democratic control and accountability, and drive the use of data to generate non-economic value.

The “data sharing for public good” narratives have been presented for over a decade, arguing that privately-owned big data should be used for the public interest. The idea of the commons has attracted the attention of policymakers interested in developing institutional responses that can advance public interest goals. The concept of the data commons offers a generative model of property that is well-aligned with the ambitions of the European data strategy. And by employing the idea of the data commons, the public debate can be shifted beyond an opposition between treating data as a commodity or protecting it as the object of fundamental rights.

The European Union is uniquely positioned to deliver a data governance framework that ensures Business-to-Government (B2G) data sharing in the public interest. The policy vision for such a framework has been presented in the European strategy for data, and specific recommendations for a robust B2G data sharing model have been made by the Commission’s high-level expert group.

There are three connected objectives that must be achieved through a B2G data sharing framework. Firstly, access to data and the capacity to make use of it needs to be ensured for a broader range of actors. Secondly, exclusive corporate control over data needs to be reduced. And thirdly, the information power of the state and its generative capacity should be strengthened.

Yet the current proposal for the Data Act fails to meet these goals, due to a narrow B2G data sharing mandate limited only to situations of public emergency and exceptional need.

This policy brief therefore presents a model for public interest B2G data sharing, aimed to complement the current proposal. This framework would also create a robust baseline for sectoral regulations, like the recently proposed Regulation on the European Health Data Space. The proposal includes the creation of the European Public Data Commons, a body that acts as a recipient and clearinghouse for the data made available…(More)”.