Leading Think Tank Urges G20 to Adopt Core Principles to Enable Free Flow of Data in Global Economy

May 27, 2019

WASHINGTON— Ahead of the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Trade and Digital Economy beginning on June 8, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the world’s leading think tank for science and technology policy, today released a new report calling on countries to create an open, rules-based global trading system that supports the free flow of data.

“The foundation of the global digital economy is showing cracks. Some countries are trying to impose their preferred rules on others and some are erecting barriers and turning inward,” said Nigel Cory, associate director of trade policy at ITIF and lead author of the report. “This G20 summit provides a valuable opportunity for the world’s leading digital economies to come together and begin forging consensus around core principles and policies to manage the key driver of today’s global economy: data.”

ITIF’s report proposes four key principles to enable what Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has called “data free flow with trust”:

  1. Rather than tell firms where they can store or process data, countries should hold firms accountable for managing data they collect, regardless of where they store or process it. This requires enacting data protection laws based on local accountability and global interoperability.
  2. Countries should revise the inefficient processes and outdated legal agreements that govern law enforcement requests for access to data stored in another country’s jurisdiction. As part of this, countries should develop a Geneva Convention for Data that establishes international rules for transparency, settles questions of jurisdiction, and increases cooperation and coordination of cross-border requests from law enforcement. Countries also should improve existing institutions, processes, and tools used to manage cross-border law enforcement requests for data, especially mutual legal assistance treaties.
  3. Countries should develop the legal and administrative policies, with appropriate checks and balances, that allow Internet service providers to block data flows that involve illegal distribution and use of unlicensed content.
  4. Countries should support, not undermine, the role of encryption in securing data flows and digital technologies.

“The world needs to coalesce around an approach to the digital economy that is based on accountability and interoperability. The alternative is that individual countries and regional blocs will split away from one another and enacting artificial barriers that prohibit all or certain types of data flows,” said ITIF President Robert D. Atkinson, who co-authored the report with Cory and ITIF Vice President Daniel Castro.

Said Castro: “Countries will not always agree on the same policies for the digital economy, but they can agree on the same principles. By adopting an interoperable framework for data flows, nations can protect their own interests, avoid trampling on the rights of other sovereign nations, and improve security, openness, and accountability online.” 

Read the report.