Big data and data mining put a strain on both the right to privacy and data protection, but also other fundamental rights including freedom of expression and non-discrimination.
This is because with the large amounts of data that is processed for data mining and the aggregation and analysis of huge volumes of diversely sourced information or big data, the individual risks being lost and defined only by data and algorithms.
Big data, along with machine learning and artificial intelligence, is therefore a long-term strategic concern not only for data protection and privacy regulators like the EDPS, but for other enforcement agencies in the areas of competition and consumer protection.
In light of this, the EDPS proposed the establishment of a Digital Clearinghouse to bring together agencies from the areas of competition, consumer and data protection willing to share information and discuss how best to enforce rules in the interests of the individual.
With our Opinions, workshops and also our proposal for a Digital Clearinghouse, the EDPS has kick-started a worldwide debate on the implications of big data and the need for reflection by legislators and regulators.
In addition to the documents below, you can also read about Big Data in our Reference Library.
The first meeting of the Digital Clearinghouse takes places in Brussels on 29 May 2017. All regulators in the digital space, based in the EU or around the world, have been invited to take part in an initial brainstorm on how the forum can best add value to their work on the ground. We are delighted that Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, has agreed to say a few words at the beginning of the day. There will be a discussion on the biggest crossover issues facing digital regulators with esteemed experts including Bruce Schneier, Paul-Olivier Dehaye, Inge Graef, Tristan Harris and Alexandre de Streel and as well as a closed meeting for regulators only.
The first meeting of the Digital Clearinghouse was attended by authorities with regulatory responsibilities for various aspects of the digitised economy. There were shared concerns about information and power disparities between individuals and the service providers whom they rely on. Discussions took place on common short and longer term issues including data portability, fake news and voter manipulation, the emergence of attention markets and opacity of algorithms which determine how personal data are collected and used. There were also discussions on the overlap between areas of law.
Four areas of overlap or possible gaps in regulation were discussed: unfair or harmful terms and conditions for digital platforms, security considerations for connected things and apps, the 'fake news' phenomenon and the longer term impact of big tech sector mergers. These areas could be focus for the next meeting which will take place on the autumn. Participants started the discussion on identifying principles for cooperation based on past experiences in order to build scenarios and options for responding to those scenarios. A secure communication channel should be established for authorities wishing to engage in digital clearinghouse discussions.
All Clearinghouse discussions take place without prejudice to the competences of independent authorities and existing networks.
On 14 March 2017 the European Parliament adopted a resolution on 'fundamental rights implications of big data: privacy, data protection, non-discrimination, security and law-enforcement' which included a call for "closer cooperation and coherence between different regulators and supervisory competition, consumer protection and data protection authorities at national and EU level should be encouraged, in order to ensure a consistent approach to and understanding of the implications of big data for fundamental rights; whereas the establishment and further development of the Digital Clearing House as a voluntary network of enforcement bodies can contribute to enhancing their work and their respective enforcement activities and can help deepen the synergies and the safeguarding of the rights and interests of individuals".