Depending on who you ask you will likely get two specific types of answers to the question - what is data? The first will be something along the lines of data is what I use when I watch Netflix or listen to Spotify while the second will likely follow along the lines of data is one of the most valuable aspects about you. Depending on which camp your personal answer leans more towards, will likely be fairly representative of your thoughts on the constant debate around ‘privacy and data’.
According to Europe’s own Margrethe Vestager, Europe as a whole seems to largely fall into the second category. Vestager, likely needs little introduction to those who follow tech news regularly as while she is a Danish politician, she also happens to be the current European Commissioner for Competition. Which is a unique position at the moment thanks to the current data/privacy climate and the concerns which constantly arise from that climate. In this position, Vestager has also been fairly outspoken about what is good for competition in Europe and in particular, the antitrust case and charges levelled at Google.
However, more recently Vestager was taking part in an podcast with Recode and revealed a little of her insights on how (from her personal perspective) the US and Europe differ in terms of their view on privacy. In particular, how Europeans are becoming more aware of the value of their data. According to Vestager, Europeans feel as though they are less in control of their data, while adding that Europeans typically “distrust the companies” to be able to effectively protect that data. While agencies from all regions are likely to be concerned about such things, Vestager notes that in Europe there is a concern that if those privacy rules are not enforced effectively, the public belief in services which operate based on data could be affected. By enforcing these privacy rules, the idea is for Europeans to feel a sense of trust in the data that they spend.
Of course, Vestager does also point out that her ultimate background is economics and therefore the understanding of such things like data as a currency, is a fairly natural one. In particular, Vestager does come from the camp which does believe that like the coins in your wallet or purse, data is just another form of payment which is accepted by companies in return for a service or otherwise. A notion that Vestager believes is becoming more commonly understood by consumers in Europe with those consumers “becoming more and more aware of the fact that their personal data do have a value."
While Vestager has made the tech headlines a number of times for taking on the likes of Google and Apple, the difference between the approaches made by the US and European sides towards these tech companies was only briefly commented on. With Vestager noting that the two sides do approach these things very differently and there is no expectation for the US to take the same view as Europe. With Vestager also noting that it is not the responsibility of European agencies to “redo what they do." Although Vestager does feel that Europe has a ‘slightly higher level of transparency’ on such matters.