EU Intensifies Scrutiny on Big Tech: Mandates Data Sharing for Risk Research

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The European Union (EU) is ramping up its focus on larger technology platforms, demanding greater access to data for risk research. This move is part of the bloc’s Digital Services Act (DSA) which aims to provide researchers with essential data to investigate systemic risks within the EU. This significant policy shift emphasizes the importance of transparency and accountability in the digital age.

Key Highlights:

  • The European Commission has issued requests for information to 17 platforms under the DSA’s algorithmic transparency regulations.
  • Only vetted researchers affiliated with academic institutions will have access to this data, not journalists or activists.
  • The DSA aims to bridge the information gap between lawmakers and technology companies.
  • Data access is crucial for understanding the spread of illegal and harmful online content.
  • The DSA empowers trusted flaggers and requires platforms to prioritize responses to illegal content notices.

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The Importance of Data Access in Digital Governance

The DSA’s Article 31 outlines that large internet companies must comply with data requests from researchers, once approved by the EU country hosting the technology company or the European Commission. This provision aims to mitigate risks of privacy breaches and corporate espionage by restricting data access to vetted researchers for non-profit research purposes. Researchers can request data to study illegal content, manipulative platform use, and other negative online effects. This step is vital for closing the knowledge gap in technology policy, enabling a deeper understanding of the operations and impacts of large online platforms.

Researcher Data Access: Ensuring Compliance and Transparency

The intricate workings of large online platforms have often been opaque, hindering oversight and understanding of these digital ecosystems. The DSA addresses this by mandating data access for independent researchers, which could provide insights into the spread of illegal content and the decisions made by tech companies. Independent researchers will also play a role in verifying the accuracy of the platform’s self-assessments and independent audits required by the DSA, adding an additional layer of scrutiny.

The Role of Digital Services Coordinators (DSCs)

The DSA acknowledges the role of researchers and civil society in EU platform oversight, with a mix of private and regulatory enforcement. Digital Services Coordinators are responsible for accrediting and monitoring platform oversight organizations, requiring a strong understanding of platform logics. These coordinators will oversee a system of various platform oversight organizations, necessitating strong data analysis capabilities and an expert network.

European Data Strategy: A Framework for Innovation and Growth

In line with the European data strategy, the EU aims to create a single market for data, encouraging its flow within the EU for the benefit of businesses, researchers, and public administrations. The strategy focuses on data governance, creating wealth for society, and providing control to citizens and trust to companies. The European Data Act, effective from January 2024, is a crucial part of this strategy, aiming to make more data available across all economic sectors in the EU.

Vetting Process and Independent Advisory Mechanism

Researchers need to demonstrate affiliation with a university or a non-academic research institute to access data. Applications are filed with national regulators, known as Digital Services Coordinators, who conduct an extensive vetting process. An independent advisory mechanism is also envisioned to support the sharing of platform data with researchers, ensuring compliance with GDPR and protecting user rights.

The EU’s increased focus on larger platforms for data access signifies a pivotal shift in digital governance. By mandating data sharing with vetted researchers, the EU aims to enhance transparency, accountability, and understanding of systemic risks in the digital ecosystem. This approach not only empowers researchers but also supports the creation of a data-driven society that benefits all stakeholders.

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Jamie

Jamie Davidson

Jamie Davidson is the Marketing Communications Manager for Vast Conference, a meeting solution providing HD-audio, video conferencing with screen sharing, and a mobile app to easily and reliably get work done."