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European Union’s ‘Digital Market Act’ Is Good, but for Online Users - It’s Not Good Enough


Several international 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 Digital Market Act definitely places some constraints on how some of these tech giants can 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.

The report, culminating two-years of work, was presented at the Global Solutions Summitin Berlin, Germany on 28 March 2022. The annual conference brings together senior government officials with top-level academic researchers, NGO leaders, and international CEOs. It 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 $515 billion (USD) market,” says Professor Dennis J. Snower, the report’s other lead author. “Digital users are simply not a part of this transactional system and in many cases don’t even know that it exists, nor do they know who has their personal information or how it is being used. We want humane market dynamics to apply to all participants in the online economy.”

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

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. 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 (by agreeing to the terms and conditions of digital services) or being excluded from the economic and social interactions that define modern life.

The Empowering Digital Citizens initiative will make online and digital consumers part of the economic model that is currently invisible to the average consumer.

Access the report here: Empowering Digital Citizens. Access an FAQ on the initiative here: Q&A on Human-Centered Digital Governance.

Membership of the Global Initiative for Digital Empowerment is on page four of the Empowering Digital Citizens report.

About Dr. Paul Twomey: Dr. Twomey is co-lead of the Global Initiative for Digital Empowerment and Fellow and Initiative Director for Digital Governance at THE NEW INSTITUTE. He is a Fellow and Core Theme Leader for “managing information and technology in the public interest” at the Global Solutions Initiative. Twomey is also a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and a Commissioner of the Global Commission for Internet Governance. He is the former CEO of ICANN, the global coordination body of the Internet’s addressing system.

About Prof. Dennis J. Snower: Prof. Snower is co-lead of the Global Initiative for Digital Empowerment and is the director for the Socio-Economic Transformation programme at THE NEW INSTITUTE.. He is founder and President of the Global Solutions Initiative; Professor of Macroeconomics and Sustainability at the Hertie School, Berlin; Senior Research Fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford; and Non-resident Fellow of Brookings Institution. He is co-lead of this project. He is Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic Policy Research (London), at IZA (Institute for the Future of Work, Bonn), and CESifo (Munich).

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