Wednesday

22nd Mar 2017

Opinion

Digital content directive threatens app development sector

  • Anonymising and aggregating data are vital tools that developers can use to design in privacy. (Photo: N i c o l a)

European game developers are global leaders. In 2015, the top five most downloaded games globally came from European studios.

Like many of the apps we use to improve our daily lives - from our journey to work to booking a weekend away; from reducing our carbon footprint to helping us eat more healthily - these games get better all the time because developers learn from the anonymised, aggregated bulk data that the use of these games and apps provides, data like crash reports and performance data.

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Anonymising and aggregating data are vital tools that developers can use to design in privacy too – an ever increasing concern for Europeans.

The proposed new Digital Content Directive puts all this at risk.

It could make privacy by design much more difficult, create uncertainty because of conflicts with the General Data Protection Regulation, reduce the quality of apps and games available to consumers and undermine the growth of one of Europe’s fastest growing job-creating sectors.

The directive gives users rights to ask for their data to be returned, not just their personal data but all the data they may have provided to a service including, for example, the data they generate by simply using the service. So developers can’t anonymise it – just in case they have to return it.

This also appears to create a conflict between the new directive and the principles and obligations of the General Data Protection Regulation.

No business or investor, large or small, wants that sort of uncertainty hanging over their heads.

The directive will make games and apps more expensive to produce, hitting hard mainly the SME apps developers, putting jobs and tax revenues at risk.

Why? Because services will have to be re-designed and re-tested simply so that the service provider can return data that users don’t appear to want back and will rarely be any value to them.

And it’s not just the threat to today’s apps. The directive throws this spanner in the works just at the time when Europe is on the verge of finding new ways of harnessing the benefits that big data, machine learning and internet of things promise.

It’s not just my opinion – the European Commission itself said that for consumers “this global trend [data-driven innovation] holds enormous potential in various fields, ranging from health, food security, [...] and smart cities, which Europe cannot afford to miss.”

The proposers of this directive must explain why it’s worth taking these risks, because right now it looks to me to be a good example of what Europe doesn’t need.

John Higgins is director general of DIGITALEUROPE.

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