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Big data and the Digital Clearing House

Big data means large amounts of different types of data produced at high speed from multiple sources, requiring new and more powerful processors and algorithms to process and to analyse. These practices and technologies could offer major benefits for economic growth and various sectors including energy transportation and health.

Not all of this information is personal, but businesses and governments are more and more using big data to understand, predict and shape human behaviour. Big data is therefore a long term strategic concern for data protection and privacy regulators. It puts strain on not only privacy and data protection, but other fundamental rights including freedom of expression and non-discrimination. 

We need to find new ways of realising principles and values, of shaping but not stopping technologies which promise benefits for individuals and society at large.  

Through a series of Opinions and other initiatives, the EDPS has been developing the concept of Big Data Protection, which includes but goes beyond modern and simple-to-implement laws:

• Future oriented rules and enforcement – not only on data protection and confidentiality of communications, but also through coherent enforcement by competition, consumer and data protection authorities
• Accountable controllers - with the EU institutions themselves leading by example
• Empowered individuals, for instance through personal information management systems
• Innovative privacy engineering, for instance through the IPEN initiative

In response to the resolution of the Spring Conference of European data protection authorities, we have recently proposed the establishment of a Digital Clearing House to bring together, for the first time, agencies from competition, consumer and data protection areas who are willing to share information and discuss how best to enforce rules in the interests of the individual.  This was discussed at a high-level conference jointly hosted by EDPS and BEUC on 29 September 2016.  

The EDPS will announce, at the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection conference in Brussels on 26th January 2017, the results of the survey of the volunteer agencies who are to be part of the Digital Clearing House. There will then be an expert panel discussion.  

EDPS is also represented in a separate panel on 26th January organised by New America Foundation entitled Masters Of Mind? Ideas And Politics In The Age Of Platform Monopoly

Information on registration to CPDP is available here.


• Preliminary Opinion on Privacy and competitiveness in the age of big data: The interplay between data protection, competition law and consumer protection in the Digital Economy, March 2014
• Speech Giovanni Buttarelli, The EU Data Protection Reform: Updated Perspectives and the Challenges posed by Big Data, Istanbul, May 2014
• Report of EDPS workshop on privacy, consumers, competition and big data, June 2014
• Speech by Giovanni Buttarelli, Privacy and Competition in the Digital Economy, January 2015
• Speech by Giovanni Buttarelli, Antitrust, Privacy and Big Data, February 2015
• EDPS Opinion 4/2015, Towards a New Digital Ethics: Data, Dignity and Technology, September 2015
• Speech by Giovanni Buttarelli, Competition Rebooted: Enforcement and Personal Data in Digital Markets, September 2015
• EDPS Opinion 7/2015, Meeting the Challenges of Big Data: A Call for transparency, user control, data protection by design and accountability, November 2015
• Speech by Giovanni Buttarelli at BEUC Digiforum, May 2016
• EDPS Opinion 8/2016 , Coherent Enforcement of Fundamental Rights in the Age of Big Data
• EDPS-BEUC Conference, Big Data: Individual Rights and Smart Enforcement, 29 September 2016; webcast, presentations
• EDPS blog post, Big Data Rights: Let’s Get Together, October 2016
• Speech by Giovanni Buttarelli, Address to Socialists and Democrats Group workshop on the Proposed Digital Content Directive, January 2017

See also 

Bibliography of Materials Relevant to the Interaction of Competition Policy, Big Data and Personal Data, Cyril Ritter, DG Competition, European Commission

OECD Competition Division project on Big data: Bringing competition policy to the digital era

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