Regulating the European Data-Driven Economy. A Case Study on the General Data Protection Regulation


In recent years, data have become part and parcel of contemporary capitalism. This created tensions between the growing demand for personal data and the fundamental right to data protection. Against this background, the EU’s adoption of the general data protection regulation (GDPR) poses a puzzle. Why did the EU adopt a regulation that strengthens data protection despite intensive lobbying by powerful business groups? We make two arguments to explain this outcome. First, we use process tracing to show how institutional legacies triggered and structured the policy-formulation process by strengthening the position of data protection advocates within the Commission. Second, we use discourse network analysis to show that the Snowden revelations fundamentally changed the discursive and coalitional dynamics during the decision-making stage, ‘saving’ the GDPR from being watered down. Our paper contributes to the literature on the political economy of data protection while also offering a comprehensive explanation of the GDPR

Timo Seidl
Timo Seidl

I am a Post-Doc at the University of Vienna’s Centre for European Integration Research (EIF).