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European Data Protection Supervisor-BEUC Joint Conference on Big Data Promotes Closer Dialogue

Last week, the European Data Protection Supervisor (the “EDPS”), in collaboration with European consumer organisation BEUC, hosted a joint conference on Big Data: individual rights and smart enforcement in Brussels (for the conference agenda, see here).  The conference brought together leading regulators and experts in the areas of competition, data protection and consumer protection, including representatives of several data protection authorities and consumer associations as well as academics.

The objective of the conference was to promote closer dialogue and cooperation and to explore how to respond to the challenges brought about by big data. The conference included panels on big data, data-driven platforms, smart technologies and enforcement.

EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager and Federal Trade Commissioner Terrell McSweeny were the keynote speakers. Both welcomed the dialogue and the idea of a digital clearing house which the EDPS promotes in his recent opinion on big data. However, whilst recognizing that there are certain commonalities between data protection and competition law, they also highlighted the differences. Vestager in particular stressed that the mere fact of having huge amounts of data is not anti-competitive and that data sharing and pooling may even be beneficial for competition.  McSweeny stated that merger proceedings should not be used to extract privacy concessions from companies and that privacy aspects should rather be dealt with by the data protection regulators.  Although competition rules were not written with big data in mind, it would be possible to deal with big data cases by applying renowned competition law principles.  However, in order to ensure effective enforcement Vestager announced that the European Commission may issue a proposal strengthening the powers of the competition authorities and providing new tools as early as spring next year. Moreover, the European Commission is also exploring whether mergers with valuable data should be subject to merger control rules even if the data is not yet monetized.

© 2020 Covington & Burling LLPNational Law Review, Volume VI, Number 279


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Repeatedly ranked as having one of the best privacy practices in the world, Covington combines exceptional substantive expertise with an unrivaled understanding of the IT industry, and of e-commerce and digital media business models in particular.  Our practice provides exceptional coverage of all of the substantive areas of privacy, including IT/technology, data security, financial privacy, health privacy, employment privacy, litigation and transactions.  One of our core strengths is the ability to advise clients on relevant privacy and data security rules worldwide,...