EU will tackle 'unnecessary' data localisation, says commissioner

Out-Law News | 29 Sep 2016 | 4:33 pm | 1 min. read

The European Commission wants to curb unjustified controls on where data can be stored by organisations in the EU, the trading bloc's commissioner for the digital single market Andrus Ansip has said.

In a speech in Slovakia on Thursday, Ansip said there are "a series of legal and technical barriers that constrain cross-border data flows" which cannot be justified on privacy or security grounds, and that such measures harm the EU market's "growth potential".

The Commission intends to outline its plans to address the issue in a new initiative later this year, he said.

"Barriers like data localisation not only prevent economies of scale," Ansip said. "Data localisation also holds back the digital single market. It is not good for Europe, its businesses or for technologies. So, later this year, we will present an initiative to tackle unnecessary restrictions on where data is located. We will also look at legal issues surrounding data ownership and management, use and reuse of data, access to data - to prevent any of them from stifling innovation."

Ansip said there is no reason why company data, tax data, book-keeping data, financial and all health data should be "stored forcibly inside particular borders in a single market". It praised a recent change to Danish law which allows Danish companies to "store their data anywhere, as long as tax authorities have full access" to the information.

"Forcible data localisation rules will not lead to better protection, but to fragmentation," Ansip said. "This will be to the detriment of benefits for citizens, consumers, SMEs and society."

Ansip said that barriers on where data can be stored also go "directly against the spirit" of the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

"It is possible to ensure more security and more effective data protection safeguards without any artificial rules on data localisation," he said.