Last Wednesday, member states’ ambassadors pushed an agreement that would allow non-personal data to move easily across country borders on Estonian request.
EU member states have approved a proposal to end national data storage requirements for any non-personal data. That means information from one EU country should be able to be stored or transferred seamlessly to a server in another EU member state. This agreement aims to create a single market for data storage and processing services, such as cloud computing.
Free data flow is expected to drive down the costs of data services, give companies greater flexibility in organising their data management and data analytics, and expand their choice of providers. At the same time, the new law would ensure that authorities have access to data stored or processed in another member state so that they can carry out their duties.
Estonia, who holds the six-month EU presidency until the end of December has championed the agreement. “Seamless data mobility saves costs for businesses, especially for start-ups and SMEs, and is essential for many next-generation digital services,” said Estonian minister for information technology Urve Palo.
Last Wednesday, the Council of the EU adopted their desired version of the legislative proposal, which allows Estonia’s successor, Bulgaria, to start talks over the final bill with the European Parliament. The project ran through European institutions at break-neck speed, which indicates a high degree of consensus. “This kind of tempo is rather unusual for Brussels,” a spokeswoman for the Estonian Council presidency said.
Estonia’s push to broker a fast agreement on data flows was originally backed by a group of around 15 countries that have called for the rules since last year. However, France, Germany and Spain have pushed for tougher security safeguards. They also have asked for exceptions so that companies could still be required to store certain kinds of data on domestic servers. They insisted on broadening the scope of the exception to include “public sector data”.
Eventually, Ministers retained an exemption only for “national security”. The Parliament has yet to agree on the text before it can enter into force.