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Ratas: Free movement of data only within clear legal framework

Jüri Ratas speaking at the digital single market conference, July 17, 2017.
Jüri Ratas speaking at the digital single market conference, July 17, 2017. Source: (

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said at the digital single market conference of Estonia’s EU council presidency on Monday that Europe needed clear rules and strict controls to introduce the free movement of data.

The call for free movement of data as the so-called Fifth Freedom of the EU’s single market (beyond free movement of goods, capital, services, and people) is one of the core messages of the Estonian EU council presidency. Policy experts as well as the most important personalities out of the global discussion surrounding the concept of a digital society are meeting in Tallinn on Monday for a conference.

“We need to answer the questions about access, the repeat use of data and how to control it, but also about privacy. Without a clear legal and political framework we’re stuck. And if the use of data is obstructed, then the data have no use,” Ratas said.

The free movement of data is one of the preconditions of a digital single market in the European Union. In this context, the innovation, better use of technology, and more efficient exchange of data had the potential to improve the everyday life of the EU’s people, businesses, and member states.

“Estonia is leading a very substantial debate on the free movement of data. The free movement of data will lead to new business opportunities and create a favourable ground for harmonising social inequalities. It is also essential to make governments more efficient,” Alex Pentland, a leading data economy expert and professor at MIT, said in his keynote address at the conference.

“We mustn’t forget that the free movement of data has its perils as well. Ensuring the privacy of personal data is very important in moving and sharing of large amounts of data,” Pentland added. “The value of data will grow exponentially even if we can compare it anonymously. Comparing data is beneficial for example for the better planning of public transport, the detection of infectious disease epidemics, and much more, helping countries better manage their processes and predict potential problems.”

The conference brought almost 500 companies and representatives of the public sector from 31 countries to Tallinn. The competitiveness and telecommunications ministers of the EU member states, representatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament, as well as high representatives of the Council of the European Union were all present.

ERR News had the opportunity to talk to EU data protection supervisor Wojciech Wiewiórowski as well as professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Alex Pentland at the conference. Follow the links for the interviews with Wiewiórowski and Pentland.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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