“The more data we have, the smarter our algorithms become”

The EU Commission presents its digital strategy. It is also a declaration of war on America and China.

Dhe EU is digitally catching up with the United States and China. According to plans by the EU Commission, large international technology companies are threatened with higher requirements in the future – and global effects are likely, as is the case with data protection. The core idea of ​​the plan is: data should flow faster and be better used for applications with artificial intelligence.

“I want a digital Europe that reflects the best of Europe: open, fair, diverse, democratic and self-confident,” emphasized EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen. The focus on European values ​​also means a challenge to the top dogs, as Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton made clear. “It is not us who have to adapt to today’s platforms, it is the platforms that have to adapt to Europe.”

However, the plans are only announcements. It will take some time before concrete legislative proposals are on the table. First of all, the Commission is now waiting for feedback and will take this into account in the future.

Own data rooms and more

One of the projects is that data can be exchanged more easily within the EU in the future, thus driving technical innovation. Authorities, companies and science should benefit from the data sets. “The more data we have, the smarter our algorithms become,” said CDU politician von der Leyen.

That is why access to data is crucial. So far there is a huge untapped potential. Separate data rooms are to be created for areas such as the transport sector, health system or climate protection, in which data can be saved and exchanged without any obstacles.

At the same time, the Brussels authority wants to promote the use of artificial intelligence. This could improve the everyday life of every individual and at the same time help to achieve the goal of a climate-neutral Europe by 2050. Von der Leyen specifically mentioned better cancer diagnoses and optimized heating that saves millions of tons of oil.

In all of its plans, the EU Commission emphasized that the fundamental rights of Europeans should be protected. Europe should become more independent of the American tech companies. The first race for personal data has already been missed, said Breton. But the battle for industrial data is now starting – and the battlefield is Europe.

Data from the management consultancy McKinsey shows how great the need to catch up with other parts of the world is. Among the top 250 tech companies, European firms accounted for only 8 percent of research and development spending. China is 11 percent, the United States 77 percent.

In the race to catch up, according to the EU Commission, care should be taken to ensure that the data used does not lead to tendentious results. “We want citizens to trust the new technologies,” said von der Leyen. Data sets in sensitive areas such as the health sector should be checked and certified by authorities. This is to rule out that certain population groups are discriminated against by the results. A label should be voluntary for low-risk applications.

American companies such as Facebook and Google may be threatened with sensitive requirements. For example, you could be forced to share your data. There are special considerations for dominant market participants, said EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. First of all, however, it should be ensured that the people who made their data available have access to it. With regard to facial recognition, the Commission wants to initiate a debate about the circumstances under which there could be exceptions to the general ban on using it in public spaces.

The reactions to the projects were mostly positive. The European consumer association Beuc emphasized that data from large companies should be accessible to others. “Too much data is currently in the hands of a few industry participants who use it exclusively for their own benefit,” said General Director Monique Goyens. The digital association Bitkom found that the proposals formulated the right goals. “But the necessary measures are missing,” said Bitkom President Achim Berg.

The SPD MEP Tiemo Wölken said: “The Commission has planned a lot.” However, he regretted that no legislative proposal was made on artificial intelligence – contrary to what von der Leyen had announced before taking office. And Alexandra Geese from the Greens in the European Parliament said: “The digital strategy is providing the right impetus.” By examining high-risk applications in advance, the EU is setting new standards for protection against discrimination.