Digital policies: Expected to remain a priority in the new term

Digital policies: Expected to remain a priority in the new term

Dagmar Bartels April 2019

The Digital Single Market Strategy (DSM) is one of the key strategies of the current European Commission and is aimed at making Europe more competitive in a globalised world.

Out of 30 legislative initiatives which were launched under the DSM, 28 proposals have been adopted into law including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), reforms of telecoms, VAT and audiovisual media, facilitation of cross border parcel delivery, and the free flow of non-personal data.

2019 will be a year of major political changes: from Brexit, to the European Parliament elections, and the appointment of the new European Commission. The political reshuffle will lead to new policy priorities for the next 5 years, whilst the EU elections might shake up established political dynamics with a possible shift towards the right.

This might mean that engagement with Parliamentarians becomes more difficult, and therefore outcomes of legislative files less predictable.

Many governments, particularly in Europe, have changed their rhetoric and are more willing than ever to regulate the tech industry.

As a result of the European Commission’s recent legislative work on platforms (e.g. Copyright Directive, Terrorist Content Regulation, Platform-to-Business Regulation) and the growing consumer interest in platforms and their services, the current policy direction is likely to be followed by the next European Commission.

This means that digital policies will remain a key priority for the EU institutions, with priorities expected to be around issues like privacy, data governance, artificial intelligence, or possibly a revision of the current rules for illegal content hosted by online platforms.

Issues we expect to be addressed will include the changing role that data plays when it comes to users of seemingly “free” services like social media sites. Data generated by users is collected, analysed and stored, and EU regulators are keen to give consumers more rights over their data, so more legislation is likely in this area. Data, and the ability to utilise it, will also become a more important criterion when assessing mergers and acquisitions – the Facebook-WhatsApp merger under this legislature has raised serious concerns about a company’s ability to connect data between companies and what implications this can have for privacy.

Privacy will also remain a hot topic under the next European Commission with discussions around reforming the e-Privacy Regulation ongoing. If regulators do not manage to conclude this file before the end of this mandate, the next European Commission has the right to withdraw the proposal. However, it is expected that if the current proposal does not see the light of day, a similar proposal is likely to be introduced early in the next mandate.   

Privacy and data will continue to shape adjacent, horizontal issues like the evolving Artificial Intelligence industry in Europe and will determine how machine-learning will facilitate jobs in Europe. In that context, the debate around the future of work will likely also be one that populist politicians in particular could put on the political agenda.

Exciting times are certainly ahead, and we’ll be delighted to keep you informed of latest news and developments around digital policy. Sign up to receive flash updates around key developments here.