Recently, the German government submitted a proposal to the European Council in which an explicit right to access data for research of substantial public interest would be possible. This right would allow researchers to request access to data from companies, e.g. production data, sensor data, among others, some of which could be deemed ‘trade secrets’. Attached to this right are other obligations on researchers, e.g., no commercial interests or disclosure of funding, etc. For more details, see the proposal here (in pdf).
So far it is unclear to what extent this data access right for public research will be included in the Data Act.
According to the review of the CEPIS Legal and Security Issues (LSI) expert group, the proposal raises the following main questions:
- If the requested data were to concern other persons, would the data holder be allowed to provide this data, or would it need approval from people mentioned in the data, or the respective data protection authority, or yet to be defined independent advisor?
- Who would pay for the handling of the request including the possibly needed legal advice to e.g. avoid liability risks? There are quite a few assessments in the proposal that the data holder would need to make to either fulfil the request with proper protection of the data or deny it for legitimate reasons.
- The current proposal seems to be presented from the perspective of a small-scale researcher who should get access to data from a “big” data holder, who can easily afford the effort. How would this proposal impact a smaller (SME) data holder, e.g. a small Internet provider (traffic data interesting for lots of research) or a small mobility provider (location and movement data, which is of considerable interest for all kinds of research)?
It would be interesting to see whether and how the Data Act and a possible right to access data for research of substantial public interest is discussed in your Member Society. Please contact the CEPIS LSI expert group at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to provide some input on this matter.