Together with Justin Nogarede (FEPS), Paul Tang wrote a chapter in the FEPS Yearbook 2020
Digital Union: What has happened so far? What should progressives aim at next?
In this contribution, we will survey some of the monumental events and trends of last year, and look at some of the policy responses in the digital fi eld at European level. In the second part, we will look ahead, to what will certainly be an important year for digital policymaking in Europe. Although it is always risky to make predictions, it is our bet that many of the problems in the digital arena, as well as the solutions, hinge on the question of data, and that this is the key policy debate for the coming year and beyond. What are data? Who controls them? Who can access them? And on what terms? How should they be used? In short, data governance is the key question for progressives, looking ahead.
As we head into the new decade, digital issues are at the very top of the EU policy agenda – from rampant privacy violations and large-scale social media manipulation, to the vast economic, and political, power of big tech, and the idea that Europe has ‘lost’ its digital sovereignty. On top of that, there is the urgent question of climate change, and how the digital transition can support the greening of our economy.
What underpins many of these phenomena is what has been incorrectly called the ‘oil’ of the digital economy: data. The accumulation of data about people’s online and offline behaviour, transformed into detailed profi les, compromises people’s privacy and underpins the personalisation, polarisation and manipulation of how we gather information and communicate online. The extraction, storage and processing of data about European citizens, communities, and businesses has helped create a platform ecosystem that we need to use, but that we do not understand, and that does not embed public values such as democracy, transparency or solidarity. Right now, many of the datasets are controlled and closely guarded by powerful firms, as the datasets provide the means to fortify and expand the fi rms’ dominant position and profits.