miércoles, 20 de julio de 2016

The free flow of data: Lost in the maze of legacy regulations

The free flow of data is one of the basis of Internet services. The conscious of its importance is growing with the threat towards its survival. 

Since October 6th of last year a exists a certain risk of the end of Internet as we know. The European Court of Justice ruled the invalidity of the agreement. Although the European Data Protection Watchdogs initially declared their will to be patient, their initial deadline has been fulfilled without an effective agreement. Furthermore, the watchdogs do not like happy with the draft of the new agreement reached by the European Commission for personal data flows, the so-called "Prvacy Shield". 

The European Parliament is equally unsatisfied with the "Privacy Shield" . The MEPs approved a resolution signalling how some of the deficiencies of the "Safe Harbour" are still alive in the new agreement. Not listening its advice, as well as the advice of the Data Protection Watchdogs, may have as a consequence a future declaration of invalidation of "Privacy Shield" by the European Court of Justice.

However, the European Institutions are used to reach consensus in difficult issues. It will be more difficult to convince the US government on providing more guarantees on data protection as a citizenship right, but in the end and agreement will be reached because there is no alternative but a new deal. So let us be optimistic. 

But Is it everything solved with the "Privacy Shield"? Unfortunately, it is not everything solved. Beyond, personal data protection regulations other laws impose data location restrictions across Europe. Although few deep studies have been done on the matter, the tip of the iceberg points to restrictions on data flows for tax and accounting records, public archives, financial sector documents and health files. The European Commission has set the course to overcome this barriers within Europe. An initiative will be presented by autumn as part of the Digital Single Market Strategy. 

The idea of creating a Schengen Area for data in Europe is not new, but it looks that Europe is now mature for it. An important group of Member States has welcomed the idea. Although the devils are in the details, they even called for the removal of barriers to the free flow of data both within and outside the European Union. A similar claim was made by the US negotiators of the TTIP according with the GreenPeace´s leak of the negotiation documents. The importance of the issue also has also deserve a relevant position in the recent OECD declaration on digital economy. 

So the aim is shared and crystal clear: there is a need to ensure the free flow of data in the network. The question is which should be the roadmap to reach that point. Until now, governments have been reluctant to reach international agreements on the matter. Digital data is the new form of the paper based documents. The maze of legacy regulations for paper documents has a way out difficult to find. 

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