European Union’s Digital Market Act isn’t good enough for online users

Dr Paul Twomey, Co-author of Empowering Digital Citizens

Several global digital specialists have praised the EU’s Digital Market Act, but say its primary aim is to foster competition among tech companies while trying to reign in some of the tech giants. They say its primary focus is not protecting the personal information of digital users.

“The act places some constraints on how tech giants use consumers’ personal data, but in terms of giving them control over their own personal information, it comes up short,” said Dr Paul Twomey, one of the lead authors of a report entitled Empowering Digital Citizens.

What should users know about the report?

The report, culminating two-years of work, was presented at the Global Solutions Summit in Berlin, Germany on 28 March 2022. The conference brings together senior government officials with top-level academic researchers, NGO leaders, and international CEOs.

The annual conference transforms research-based insights into policy recommendations for the Group of Seven (G7) and Group of 20 (G20) inter-governmental forums.

“The buying and selling of personal data is part of a $515bn market. Digital users aren’t part of this system and in many cases don’t even know that it exists, nor do they know who has their personal information. We want humane market dynamics to apply to all participants in the online economy,” says Prof Dennis J. Snower, the report’s other lead author.

Under the Empowering Digital Citizens proposal, online users would be given control over who has access to the personally identifiable information they create. They can also, with the help of a representative, set the terms under which their data can be used (according to the law), and in return they need to ensure that their data is verified by trusted third parties.

“Only the illicit drug market and online data aggregators refer to people as users. These proposals transform that model. They empower a world of digital citizens able to reinforce their democratic rights and counter the forces of disinformation,“ says Twomey.

Who are the stakeholders in the report?

Twomey and Snower represent the Global Initiative for Digital Empowerment (GIDE), which is made up of over 70 specialists from around the world, including policy experts, researchers, Internet technical experts, business people, security specialists and others.

The Global Initiative for Digital Empowerment (GIDE) is an initiative of THE NEW INSTITUTE. Based in Hamburg, THE NEW INSTITUTE is an institute of advanced studies and a platform to find answers to the most pressing ecological, economic and political challenges of our time.

The two digital researchers say a major problem is that many online users of “free services” are given artificially restricted choices of either revealing large amounts of personal data or being excluded from the economic and social interactions that define modern life.

The Empowering Digital Citizens initiative will make digital consumers part of the economic model that is currently invisible to the average consumer. Access the report here: Empowering Digital Citizens. And FAQ on here: Q&A on Human-Centered Digital Governance.