Cloud Building Blocks: Free Movement of Data

Cloud Building Blocks: Free Movement of Data

Today, the collection, interpretation and utilization of data through cloud systems is an imperative in a truly globalized and digital economy. For Europe to have a robust cloud economy based on data driven analytics, we must encourage the free flow of data between member states. Through regulation, the Commission has made great efforts to harmonize the treatment of data and to standardise levels of security. As an organisation we will be asking what else can be done to ignite the free movement of data from member state to member state and whether regulation is the best way to accomplish harmonization.

Access to data is an integral component in tailoring services and products that meet the evolving demands of consumers. With a market of over 500 million people, a cohesive cloud economy in Europe could contribute tremendously to economic growth. In its report, Unleashing the Potential of Cloud Computing in Europe, the European Commission estimates that the establishment of a data driven, cloud-based economy in Europe could expand the economy by 1% or approximately EUR 957 billion while creating 3.8 million additional jobs by 2020.

But currently, the security concerns of some member states are creating impediments to a fully functioning European data economy. According to a Commission official who has worked closely on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) negotiations, government restrictions on data flows are preventing Europe from establishing a strong digital single market. In stopping the free of flow of data across borders, companies in one country often lack the insight that they need about their clients residing in another country. The best way to deal with this problem, according to the Commission official, is to implement a European wide data security system in which we move away from a one-size model and gravitate towards a position through which we provide appropriate security levels based on categories of data as they move throughout Europe. Article 18 of the GDPR provides for the portability of data allowing companies to circulate data freely. This is a step in the right direction.

Over 80% of business and IT professionals know 'little or nothing' about GDPR  [Source: Dell]

Over 80% of business and IT professionals know ‘little or nothing’ about GDPR [Source: Dell]

The Commission’s position is that GDPR will make great strides in harmonizing data protection and data transfers within the European Union. However, a significant problem remains that most European firms do not currently understand it. In their recent survey of 821 IT professionals, Dell found that over 80% of respondents “knew little or nothing about the GDPR, while 97% said their companies didn’t have a plan in place to implement the new law.”

Member states have until the 25 May 2018 to fully implement the GDPR. In the meantime, if the Commission is to encourage cross-border sharing of data between EU member states, it has much work to do to ensure that the regulation is comprehensible to the business affected by it.

So how do we allay the concerns of governments, inform businesses and the public and establish a unified data security regime throughout Europe?

The interaction of privacy, data security, data flows and the cloud will be key areas in which the European Cloud Alliance will become involved. Our members are able to bring deeply informed evidence, insight and opinion not just from technical standpoints, but from across the economic, political and commercial spectrum. This is a key issue for Europe and one where we are determined that the voice of the cloud value chain is heard.