Italy: How To Address Big Data Legal Issues? Some Interesting Proposals From The Italian Supervisory Authorities On Data Protection, Antitrust And Communications

Last Updated: 6 August 2019
Article by Giangiacomo Olivi and Niccolò Anselmi
Most Popular Article in Italy, August 2019

Big Data: a cornerstone of Industry 4.0 and the data-driven economy

One of the key aspects of Industry 4.0 is the importance of the processing of enormous quantities of data (personal and non-personal) for economic, commercial and financial purposes (and social and political ones); not surprisingly, we speak of a "data-driven economy" and this illustrates the importance of Big Data. Data and information are extrapolated, processed and aggregated to obtain reliable information (and in some cases predictive information) that can be used in various sectors: industry, commerce, public health, private health, national security, etc. The data and information are collected from the most diverse areas of human experience (from purchase habits to transport/movement habits, from domestic life to political/sexual/religious preferences, etc.). The development of Big Data has been made possible by the progress made in recent decades by the progress in information technologies, which has allowed an ever-increasing advancement of business intelligence and data science activities.

Therefore, one of the most important challenges to be addressed for the purposes of regulating the activities that distinguish Industry 4.0 is certainly to discipline Big Data: a discipline that cannot be limited only to aspects − albeit fundamental − related to the protection of personal data, but must also take into account other matters, since Big Data affects all economic and social spheres (with important developments also from the political point of view). 

The guidelines proposed by the independent Italian authorities: mainly recommendations for the legislator, but not only

Three Italian independent administrative authorities are aware of the importance and complexity of Big Data: the Garante Privacy (the data protection authority − "Garante"), the Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (the antitrust and consumer protection authority − "AGCM"), and the Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (the communications authority – "AGCOM"), together hereinafter referred to as "the Authorities", which in May 2017 launched an investigation of Big Data, so as to be able to jointly investigate the implications of Big Data on the protection of personal data, on the dynamics of competition in the market and consumer protection, and in the context of the protection of pluralism of information. 

This survey resulted in the publication on July 2, 2019, of cooperation guidelines and policy recommendations on the development of the digital economy and Big Data ("Guidelines"), available here (Italian version). The Guidelines do not conclude the investigation: the final document that will collect the conclusive reports drawn up by each of the Authorities involved is expected shortly.

It is, however, an extremely interesting document from a number of points of view. Cooperation between the three Authorities is necessary on a particularly complex, delicate and multidisciplinary subject matter such as Big Data and, more generally, the so-called data-driven economy. It is not possible to "isolate" the regulatory approach to Big Data separately in data protection, protection of pluralism of information, or in the dynamics of market competition (or relating to consumer protection). Big Data assumes a fundamental importance not in a few specific industries, but in entire national (and not only) economies. In a socio-economic perspective based on the exploitation and processing of enormous amounts of personal data and aggregate information (e.g. analytics) deriving from them, the data subject/consumer has to be protected from "predatory" (or even discriminatory) conduct by market operators, and from the processing of information concerning him / her in order to direct his opinions and beliefs (including political ones).

In this respect, the Guidelines are developed through 11 recommendations ("Recommendations") primarily addressed to legislators and regulators, and only as a consequence (also) to market operators. Some interesting points emerge.

The most relevant issues addressed by the Guidelines

First, an assessment of the current regulatory framework in Italy is briefly outlined to address the challenges of the digital economy based on the exploitation of amounts of personal and non-personal data (i.e. Big Data). While the privacy and antitrust/consumer protection regulatory framework is considered approximately adequate, there is a need for a substantial reform of the legislation on pluralism of information, so as to adapt it to the changing needs and dynamics of the digital economy. Also, the Authorities invite the Italian legislator to adopt a single and transparent policy for the extraction, accessibility and use of public data for the purpose of determining public policies.

Some traditionally very sensitive issues − also in light of the dynamics of the digital economy −are also addressed, such as the need to reduce the information asymmetry in the field of protection of pluralism. This applies both to relations between users and service providers and between the major digital platforms and other operators using them. According to the Authorities, it is necessary to adopt measures in both directions: on the one hand, it is necessary to increase consumers' awareness of the use of their own personal data, and on the other hand, it is necessary to increase the transparency of the purposes and modalities of data and information processing by the major digital platforms. This is needed with reference to the practices of assignment to single operators, the ranking of positioning and visibility on the platforms and, above all, to favour the creation and entry on the market of some "data intermediaries" who, representing a vast number of users/operators, could have a stronger bargaining position towards the major digital platforms.

Again, with regard to on-line information pluralism, AGCOM has also pointed out the need to introduce audit and inspection rights over the major digital platforms, in order to assess whether the commitments assumed within the self-regulation procedures (through, for example, adherence to codes of conduct) are respected with reference to the methods of algorithmic selection and submission of information to users, and to the phenomena of fake news and hate speech

The AGCM deals with Big Data from a purely competitive and consumer protection point of view. From a competitive point of view, it is hoped that (i) the concept of the relevant market will be redefined (so as to also include the dynamics of the digital economy), and (ii) the legislation on mergers between companies will be rethought, so as to be able to evaluate operations that are below the thresholds required for prior communication but which could still be relevant to the restriction of competition (for example, the practice of so-called "killing acquisitions"). With reference to consumer protection, it is necessary to extend the perspective of the evaluations carried out by the AGCM, moving from the traditional approach focused on prices and quantities to look at other factors, such as quality, innovation and the fairness of the services provided. Furthermore, AGCM expressed the need to adopt instruments aimed, at least in the context of major digital platforms, at (i) increasing the transparency of information on user profiling, and (ii) introducing opt-in procedures on the degree of profiling to be chosen.

There is also an extremely interesting point on the proposal of "strengthened" use of "data portability", which is introduced in the field of data protection by Regulation 2016/679/EU (General Data Protection Regulation – "GDPR"): It is envisaged that data portability could become an instrument of protection not only for personal data but, more generally, of the interests of the consumer, in order to achieve a full and effective interoperability of technological platforms (with benefits, consequently, also in terms of competition dynamics).

The GDPR is also considered as a model to be referred to with reference to purely procedural aspects, such as sanctioning and inspection rights. AGCM and AGCOM indicate the need to increase the maximum penalties applicable to them, and to strengthen inspection and information-gathering powers (also considering sanctions and inspection rights introduced by GDOR to data protection authorities).

Finally, some areas of future collaboration between the Authorities are indicated: from the evaluation and interpretation of the European code of electronic communications − Directive 2018/1972/EU − to the adoption of measures in order to facilitate the activity of the subjects involved in detecting the online audience.

Not only are the contents interesting... but so is the approach of the Italian authorities

The Guidelines present many aspects to be considered from different points of view. First, it is possible to understand the needs of each Authority and the problems encountered in approaching complex, multidisciplinary and supranational phenomena such as Big Data and generally the digital economy. Above all, the document is interesting for the introduction of a new conception of collaboration and cooperation between the Authorities, whose competences are finally identified as "complementary" and not competing. This could lead to the adoption of measures and decisions in which the points of view of each Authority are expressed, on the same field of investigation, with a holistic approach, to the undeniable benefit of all the market operators.

We will further discuss Big Data and the Guidelines, as they address some very sensitive issues pertaining data driven economy and Industry 4.0.

So, follow us on TMT Bites Newsletter!

Do you have more questions or do you want to share your thoughts on this article? Contact our Dentons Italy TMT Team and do not forget to sign up to our TMT Bites Newsletter!

Dentons is the world's first polycentric global law firm. A top 20 firm on the Acritas 2015 Global Elite Brand Index, the Firm is committed to challenging the status quo in delivering consistent and uncompromising quality and value in new and inventive ways. Driven to provide clients a competitive edge, and connected to the communities where its clients want to do business, Dentons knows that understanding local cultures is crucial to successfully completing a deal, resolving a dispute or solving a business challenge. Now the world's largest law firm, Dentons' global team builds agile, tailored solutions to meet the local, national and global needs of private and public clients of any size in more than 125 locations serving 50-plus countries.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions