Three years ago I picked up some books when we were staying a few days in Freiburg, Germany, on our way to Switzerland for New Years Eve. I tend to read in the evening in bed before going to sleep and then prefer using an e-reader. Paper books get to be ignored easily. As happened to this one for two years. Early last year however I had my reading moments earlier in the evening.

I then read Robert Menasse’s Die Hauptstadt, or The Capital. Menasse is an Austrian author, whose work I enjoy. I have most of his novels.

Thoroughly enjoyed this book as well, created as an European novel: it is set in Brussels, although the titular capital refers not merely to the seat of the EU civil service, but also to the one forever darkest spot in our European history. A European novel in the sense that it’s playing with the historic layers and multiple meanings present in every piece of this continent as well as in its individual citizens. Usually shaped as contradictions, paradoxes and ironic coincidences, but put together forming an enormous wealth of humanity with its abundant variety, interconnectedness and potential serendipity. It’s a 450 pages sized version of what E and I mean when we say Europe works. I read it in the original German, but there’s an English translation.

(I read this book a year ago, right about when I last posted something in my books feed. Having at some point last year moved all never finished draft posts in my site to these notes, and now since this weekend having a way of easily finding any draft posts as well as posting from my notes directly to my site, this draft was an unlikely yet sudden candidate for posting.)

Bookmarked Meta’s failed Giphy deal could end Big Tech’s spending spree (by Ars Technica)

This is indeed a very interesting decision by the UK competition and markets authority. I recognise what Ars Technica writes. It’s not just a relevant decision in its own right, it’s also part of an emergent pattern. A pattern various components of which are zeroing in on large silo’d market players. In the EU the Digital Markets Act was approved in recent weeks by both the council of member state ministers and the European Parliament, with the negotation of a final shared text to be finished by next spring. The EU ministers also agreed the Digital Services Act between the member states (the EP still needs to vote on it in committee). The DMA and DSA make requirements w.r.t. interoperability, service neutrality and portability, democratic control and disinformation. On top of the ongoing competition complaints and data protection complaints this will lead to new investigations of FB et al, if not to immediate changes in functionality and accessibility of their platforms. And then there’s also the incoming AI Regulation which classifies manipulation of people’s opinion and sentiment as high risk and a to a certain extent prohibited application. This has meaning for algorithmic timelines and profile based sharing of material in those timelines. All of these, the competition issues, GDPR issues, DMA and DSA issues, and AI risk mitigation will hit FB and other big platforms simultaneously in the near future. They’re interconnected and reinforce each other. That awareness is already shining through in decisions made by competent authorities and judges here and now. Not just within the EU, but also outside it as the European GDPR, DMA, DSA and AI acts are also deliberate export vehicles for the norms written down within them.

….the strange position taken by Britain’s competition watchdog in choosing to block Meta’s takeover of GIF repository Giphy. Meta, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) ruled, must now sell all the GIFs—just 19 months after it reportedly paid $400 million for them. It’s a bold move—and a global first. ……regulators everywhere will now be on high alert for what the legal world calls “killer acquisitions”—where an established company buys an innovative startup in an attempt to squash the competition it could pose in the future.

Morgan Meaker, wired.com / Ars Technica

Vandaag vond FOSS4G-NL plaats, de eerste grote bijeenkomst waar ik weer heen ging.

Ik gaf een presentatie over de aankomende EU wetgeving t.a.v. digitalisering en data, en de kansen die daarin liggen voor de free and open source software for geo community (FOSS4G). Drie jaar geleden sprak ik tijdens de opening van FOSS4G-NL over de geopolitieke rol van data, dat Europa daar een andere koers ging kiezen dan bijvoorbeeld de VS (maximale winst-extractie) en China (maximale staatscontrole), namelijk een waar maatschappelijke waarde in lijn wordt gebracht met het versterken en beschermen van burgerrechten, en dat iedere lokale geodata-adviseur een geopolitieke actor daarbinnen is.

Dit jaar kon ik daar concreet over verder praten omdat de Europese Commissie een reeks wetgeving heeft voorgesteld die invulling geeft aan die geopolitieke propositie t.a.v. data. In die praktische invulling, die vooral nog moet gaan gebeuren, liggen kansen voor de FOSS community en FOSS4G community omdat juist hun kennis t.a.v. federatie, standaarden, en het accomoderen van heel verschillende belangen en perspectieven de dagelijkse gang van zaken is.

Mijn slides vind je hieronder (gepubliceerd op mijn persoonlijke slideshare). De korte makkelijk deelbare link is tonz.nl/foss4g21.

Dank aan de organisatoren om weer een FOSS4GNL te organiseren, en fijn om weer in Enschede en bij het ITC te zijn.

Downloaded the entire legislative package proposed in July as part of the EU Green Deal. Quite a bit of reading to go through 🙂
These proposals are relevant to my current work on keeping track of the emerging EU legal framework on digitisation, AI and data. Within that framework dataspaces (a single market for data) are proposed, with the Green Deal dataspace being the first to take shape. The Green Deal itself depends on data and monitoring to track progress towards goals, but also to be able to create effective measures, and as a consequence forms a key bridge between data and policy goals. Green and digital overlap strongly here.


the list of legislative documents I downloaded for close reading

In response to my question about overviews of GDPR decisions across the EU, GDPR Hub was mentioned, a project by noyb. noyb is the initiave of Max Schrems, a leading voice in ensuring GDPR enforcement by bringing cases against e.g. BigTech. I decided to become a nyob supporting member, and applied to volunteer for processing Dutch DPA and court decisions to be added to the GDPR Hub. A business colleague does something similar for market related court cases across the EU, and I see what value such a pan-EU resource has. Having a good and thorough overview of GDPR related decisions helps citizens to better argue their own cases where companies breach the GDPR. This makes it a source of agency, enabled by working together to ensure we all have the same information.

Since the start of this year I am actively tracking the suite of new European laws being proposed on digitisation and data. Together they are the expression into law of the geopolitical position the EU is taking on everything digital and data, and all the proposed laws follow the same logic and reasoning. Taken together they shape how Europe wants to use the potential and benefits of digitisation and data use, including specifically for a range of societal challenges, while defending and strengthening citizen rights. Of course other EU legal initiatives in parallel sometimes point in different directions (e.g. EU copyright regulations leading to upload filters, and the attempts at backdooring end-to-end encryption in messaging apps for mass surveillance), but that is precisely why to me this suite of regulations stands out. Where other legal initiatives often seem to stand on their own, and bear the marks of lobbying and singular industry interests, this group of measures all build on the same logic and read internally consistent as well as an expression of an actual vision.

My work is to help translate the proposed legal framework to how it will impact and provide opportunity to large Dutch government data holders and policy departments, and to build connections and networks between all kinds of stakeholders around relevant societal issues and related use cases. This to shape the transition from the data provision oriented INSPIRE program (sharing and harmonising geo-data across the EU), to a use needs and benefits oriented approach (reasoning from a societal issue to solve towards with a network of relevant parties towards the data that can provide agency for reaching a solution). My work follows directly from the research I did last year to establish a list of EU wide high value data sets to be opened, where I dived deeply into all government data and its governance concerning earth observation, environment and meteorology, while other team members did the same for geo-data, statistics, company registers, and mobility.

All the elements in the proposed legal framework will be decided upon in the coming year or so, and enter into force probably after a 2 year grace period. So by 2025 this should be in place. In the meantime many organisations, as well as public funding, will focus on already implementing elements of it even while nothing is mandatory yet. As with the GDPR, the legal framework once in place will also be an export mechanism of the notions and values expressed in it to the rest of the world. This as compliance is tied to EU market access and having EU citizens as clients wherever they are.

One element of the framework is already in place, the GDPR. The newly proposed elements mimic the fine structures of the GDPR for non-compliance.
The new elements take the EU Digital Compass and EU Digital Rights and Principles for which a public consultation is now open until 2 September as a starting point.

The new proposed laws are:

Digital Markets Act (download), which applies to all dominant market parties, in terms of platform providers as well as physical network providers, that de facto are gatekeepers to access by both citizens and market entities. It aims for a digital unified market, and sets requirements for interoperability, ‘service neutrality’ of platforms, and to prevent lock-in. Proposed in November 2020.

Digital Services Act (download), applies to both gatekeepers (see previous point) and other digital service providers that act as intermediaries. Aims for a level playing field and diversity of service providers, protection of citizen rights, and requires transparency and accountability mechanisms. Proposed in November 2020.

AI Regulatory Proposal (download), does not regulate AI technology, but the EU market access of AI applications and usage. Market access is based on an assessment of risk to citizen rights and to safety (think of use in vehicles etc). It’s a CE mark for AI. It periodically updates a list of technologies considered within scope, and a list of areas that count as high risk. With increasing risk more stringent requirements on transparency, accountability and explainability are set. Creates GDPR style national and European authorities for complaints and enforcement. Responsibilities are given to the producer of an application, distributors as well as users of such an application. It’s the world’s first attempt of regulating AI and I think it is rather elegant in tying market access to citizen rights. Proposed in April 2021.

Data Governance Act (download), makes government held data that isn’t available under open data regulations available for use (but not for sharing), introduces the European dataspace (created from multiple sectoral data spaces), mandates EU wide interoperable infrastructure around which data governance and standardisation practices are positioned, and coins the concept of data altruism (meaning you can securely share your personal data or company confidential data for specific temporary use cases). This law aims at making more data available for usage, if not for (public) sharing. Proposed November 2020.

Data Act, currently open for public consultation until 2 September 2021. Will introduce rules around the possibilities the Data Governance Act creates, will set conditions and requirements for B2B cross-border and cross-sectoral data sharing, for B2G data sharing in the context of societal challenges, and will set transparency and accountability requirements for them. To be proposed towards the end of 2021.

Open Data Directive, which sets the conditions and requirements for open government data (which build on the national access to information regulations in the member states, hence the Data Governance Act as well which does not build on national access regimes). The Open Data Directive was proposed in 2018 and decided in 2019, as the new iteration of the preceding Public Sector Information directives. It should have been transposed into national law by 1 July 2021, but not all MS have done so (in fact the Netherlands has just recently started the work). An important element in this Directive is EU High Value Data list, which will make publication of open data through APIs and machine readable bulk download mandatory for all EU member states for the data listed. As mentioned above, last year I was part of the research team that did the impact assessments and proposed the policy options for that list (I led the research for earth observation, environment and meteorology). The implementation act for the EU High Value Data list will be published in September, and I expect it to e.g. add an open data requirement to most of the INSPIRE themes.

Most of the elements in this list are proposed as Acts, meaning they will have power of law across the EU as soon as they are agreed between the European Parliament, the EU council of heads of government and the European Commission and don’t require transposition into national law first. Also of note is that currently ongoing revisions and evaluations of connected EU directives (INSPIRE, ITS etc.) are being shaped along the lines of the Acts mentioned above. This means that more specific data oriented regulations closer to specific policy domains are already being changed in this direction. Similarly policy proposals such as the European Green Deal are very clearly building on the EU digital and data strategies to achieving and monitoring those policy ambitions. All in all it will be a very interesting few years in which this legal framework develops and gets applied, as it is a new fundamental wave of changes after the role the initial PSI Directive and INSPIRE directive had 15 to 20 years ago, with a much wider scope and much more at stake.


The geopolitics of digitisation and data. Image ‘Risk Board Game’ by Rob Bertholf, license CC BY