The collection, processing, dissemination and use of EO data needs to take into consideration not only the specific space policy and legal frameworks applicable to EO, but also a set of policy and legal approaches on data, notably on data protection, sharing and governance – and without prejudice, naturally, to other relevant frameworks that apply to networks, systems and infrastructures, such as related to technology (AI, DLT / blockchain, robotics, cloud), cybersecurity, critical infrastructures, among others.

Still, the increasingly central role of Big Data in society and economy means that EO activities, namely downstream activities, need to take into attention the opportunities and requirements arising from Data frameworks.

In the EU, there are currently two proposals under discussion which will have a relevant impact on EO dissemination activities.

The proposed Data Governance Act sets conditions for the re-use of certain categories of data held by public sector bodies in the European Union, a framework for notification and oversight of the provision of data sharing services and a framework for voluntary registration of entities collecting and processing data made available for altruistic purposes. The Act aims to It encourage a greater reuse of data by increasing trust in data intermediaries and strengthening data-sharing approaches in the EU. It further promotes “data altruism”, i.e., allowing data to be used by individuals or companies for the common good.

The proposed Data Act  will govern obligations and rights for making available, accessing to and using data (including the use of databases), seeking to strike a balance between the incentives for organizations to invest in data and the rights to access and use such data, as well as to data portability. It also aims to facilitate data use across the EU with a view to contributing to a single market in data.

Both proposals will play a central role in the EO economy and come on the heels of the European Strategy for Data, which, among other points, aims at developing common European data spaces with a view to facilitating free, interoperable and cross-sectoral data flows within the EU. The data spaces at stake include, among others, Green Deal, mobility, health and agricultural data spaces, for which EO data can play a relevant role. Note that the Strategy mentions that the EU will contribute data and infrastructure from Copernicus to underpinning the European data spaces where relevant.

This EU approach for data complements a set of other initiatives that are also very relevant for the EO sector: this is the case of the Open Data Directive, which aims to increase the availability of public sector data for re-use in order to promote innovation and the data market. It contains rules for the re-use of public documents and research data, including of high-value datasets held by the public sector, which are those the re-use of which brings important benefits for society, the environment and the economy and which shall, among other points, be made available free of charge. Geospatial, Earth observation and environment are some of the thematic categories on the basis of which the European Commission will have to lay down a list of specific high-value datasets (in due alignment, naturally, with existing legislation, such as the INSPIRE Directive – which the European Commission intends to revise – and the EU Space Programme Regulation).

It is also the case of the Regulation on the free-flow of non-personal data (will play a central role in the development of data dissemination strategies and may further promote data availability and sharing in the EO context), and of the General Data Protection Regulation – the relevance of which is growing as the resolution of EO data increases, allowing the collection of personal data (e.g., license plates). In this respect, note is made of the proposed Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework, agreed in principle between the European Commission and the United States at the end of March 2022, and aimed at replacing the EU-US Privacy Shield on international data transfers to the US.

In Africa, despite the fact that over half African countries have legislation on data protection and that the importance of data for development is widely acknowledged, continental or country-wide legal approaches for data reuse and sharing are still mostly lacking, which may hinder continental-wide EO data use.