The European Commission vice president for the Digital Single Market has criticised what he calls ‘data protectionism’.
Andrus Ansip, speaking at an event on European data flow in Estonia, said there is a need to maintain continued data flow between the UK and the EU as the UK begins the process of leaving the European Union.
Ansip discussed the global nature of data, arguing that national data centres and a lack of data movement between states hinder both security and profitability.
He said: “Data is not only the basis of our digital future and prosperity, it is a valuable resource in itself. Keeping that resource unnecessarily stuck in national data centres or in a certain geographic area means it cannot be used to its full potential.
“You could also call it data protectionism, or data nationalism.”
His comments come after a period of controversy over the idea of data sovereignty. As Brexit negotiations begin in earnest, this topic could become one of many points of contention, with a number of questions over the way in which the UK and EU will work together, both in terms of business and security.
A recent House of Lords report argued a similar point. The EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee said:
‘The Government should pursue full regulatory equivalence with the EU with respect to data protection in order to ensure unhindered data flows between the UK and EU post-Brexit, offer stability and certainty for businesses and maintain police and security cooperation.”
The report also warned that transitional agreements need to be made as Britain makes it exit from the EU, as the legal framework in place for creating equivalence between UK and EU data sharing regulations is only applicable to non-member states.
Therefore, the report suggests that the UK could be approaching a ‘cliff edge’ in terms of data flow regulation.
Problems with data flow equivalence were recently highlighted when a leak caused by a data centre outsourcing slip-up meant that Swedish witness protection details became public.