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Implementing the EU-Wide Cloud Computing Strategy

Submitted by on 27 Mar 2013 – 14:35

By Vice-President Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship

Today, almost unlimited computing power is available on demand. Companies no longer need to make significant investments to meet their data storage needs. The Cloud is transforming business. The Cloud is reality.

The Cloud forms an incredibly important part of the digital single market policy, one which will help to create growth and jobs. Europe needs to think big when it comes to cloud computing and the most efficient way to grow the market for everybody’s benefit is through pan-European action. The actions proposed by Vice-President Neelie Kroes and myself in our Communication on Cloud Computing in September could mean an additional EUR 45 billion of direct spending on Cloud Computing in the EU. The cumulative impact on GDP could be EUR 957 billion and 3.8 million jobs could be created by 2020.

The cloud strategy will create a friendlier environment for 24/7 access to computing power and content and boost a competitive digital single market where Europeans feel safe. The Commission has thus proposed actions to cut through the jungle of technical standards so that cloud users enjoy interoperability, data portability and reversibility; develop an EU-wide certification scheme for trustworthy cloud services; and develop safe and fair contract terms and conditions in line with the Common European Sales Law. Consistent solutions will enhance trust and encourage a wide take up of cloud computing services.

The lack of trust is indeed the biggest challenge today and we intend to tackle this problem above all with the ongoing reform of the EU’s data protection rules. The current data protection laws date back to 1995. The Internet stone age. Only 1% of Europe’s population was using the internet and clouds were about saturated air. Since 1995, a new economy has emerged including innovative new services like the Cloud, and personal data has become a highly valuable asset. The data protection reform will allow this new economy to flourish. It establishes a single set of rules for the internal market. Companies will be able to do business in Europe’s Single Market on the basis of just one law, instead of 27 different and often contradictory ones. This will save companies around EUR 2.3 billion per year. Besides, the reform regulates transfers beyond the borders of the Union. Any data controller that offers goods or services to an individual residing in the EU will have to comply with EU rules, no matter where he is established in the world: the same rules will apply irrespective of where the data is stored and will thus facilitate the flow of data within the Cloud.

The data protection reform also strengthens citizens’ rights and puts people in control of their data: the new rules clarify the notion of consent and have introduced a general transparency principle. There is an obligation to notify clients of data breaches, which will apply to all sectors. The “Right to be forgotten” is an important pillar of the proposals. It empowers users, under certain well defined conditions, to ask a company to delete personal data they have given to it. And in case the rules are not enforced, we have introduced a one-stop-shop system.  For the consumer, this means that they will always turn to their national data protection authority when they have a problem with a company – no matter where the company is based. They will not have to fight through the process of contacting authorities in different EU countries, riddled as it is with problems of different languages or procedures. We will make things easy for the consumer. The same un-bureaucratic one-stop-shop exists for companies as well. They will only have to deal with one data protection authority: in the country in which they have their main establishment. This cuts costs while increasing legal certainty. And we went even further in scrapping administrative ballast: no more obligations for companies to notify each and every time data is processed. Indeed, the key aim of our data protection reform proposals is to reduce administrative burden while increasing protection for individuals.

It all does make economic sense. The Cloud will allow companies to cut costs. But the Cloud will not prosper if consumers do not want businesses to use it. Reliable, consistently applied rules make data processing safer, cheaper and inspire users’ confidence. Confidence in turn drives growth.

We want to bring Cloud services to new levels of competitiveness, performance and security, and a strong set of data protection rules is key. The rules we have proposed reflect the reality of the Cloud and cloud computing is an opportunity our economy cannot miss. We in Europe will harness the potential of the Cloud by taking the lead.