Top policy trends 2020

The data revolution has come to the policy arena

As we embark on an election year, business leaders see a complex and rapidly changing policy environment as a key risk factor to their business. At the same time, they understand the role of responsible policy to address complex problems of our day. Seeing impact to their business rising across a number of policy areas, they’re actively looking to get deeper into policy debates.

In preparation for the election year, PwC surveyed over 400 CEOs, CFOs and COOs—close to 70% say their organization is “very actively” seeking to shape data privacy policy. Drug pricing, trade and antitrust policy trends are also drawing them in. There’s room to maneuver: complying with the highest standard, stepping up interactions with policymakers and pursuing policy with purpose—all no-regrets ways to navigate a changing policy environment.

A presidential election year guarantees policy attention—signal and noise together. Some policies are moving along swiftly (privacy, digital tax, drug pricing, trade), while others are in the early stages (antitrust, comprehensive healthcare legislation and regulation of artificial intelligence). With executives split on preferred policy outcomes, this is the appropriate time to up engagement. But how? PwC’s 2020 policy guide focuses on the shifts that are likely to define the year and the influencers, both regulators and non-regulators, to watch. 

The unifying thread

Data is the unifying thread across seven policy areas we highlight here. Privacy, antitrust, tax, regulation of artificial intelligence and trade are converging around the collection, sharing and security of data.

  • In trade we’re seeing more bilateral and multilateral arrangements upgraded with digital commerce provisions to facilitate growth in the global digital economy.
  • Nations are asserting sovereign rights over advancing technologies. Every major economy has now released its own national strategy for dominance in artificial intelligence.
  • Privacy has become about the digital self and giving control back to the individual.
  • Antitrust investigations are focused on companies that have economic dominance through the sheer amount of data collected and controlled.
  • European countries are seeking to impose a tax on digital services in order to collect from revenue derived by internet platforms with active users in their markets.

Data is not only the subject of regulation, but a powerful tool for businesses looking to engage in policy debates and comply with regulation. As the data revolution comes to the policy arena, 2020 will likely be the year we see data used by governments to widen enforcement, by organizations to create informed policy positions and by individuals to exercise their rights to control their data.

This report—PwC’s third annual review of top policy trends—calls out the seven policy areas in 2020 in which policy uncertainty could shift due to the groundswell among citizens, regulators and businesses. We highlight the influencers to watch and the shifts businesses should be aware of, so they are prepared to proactively get ahead of regulatory scrutiny and enforcement.

Shifts to watch in 2020 

Data privacy

Data in, data out

The collection, storage and security of data are now the focus of privacy regulators, especially as individuals call for more transparency around their own data. Complying with new regulation—and avoiding fines—will mean companies having their digital house in order.


Forget trade uncertainty, follow the data

While trade tension between the US and China is here to stay, trade strategy will be shifting focus to supply chain diversity. Data will be the key to capitalizing on that shift and complying with new bilateral trade agreements.


Not just a big tech problem

The outcome of big tech antitrust investigations will have a trickle-down effect for other industries, especially those that rely on an advertising model. Regulators will be paying closer attention to the data gatekeepers across all industries.

Digital services tax

Taxation on user representation

The rising number of digital services taxes are in response to companies having “scale without mass.” Put plainly, they have economic sway in a place in which they have little to no physical infrastructure. Until countries come to a consensus on dealing with the shifting digital economy, these taxes are here to stay.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Getting ahead of the AI revolution

AI is here and regulators are already playing catch-up, with cities and states regulating the technology on an application-specific basis. But sweeping regulation will focus on protecting society from negative effects like algorithmic bias.


Some healthy debate

Pricing transparency and drug pricing reform will be driving healthcare regulation throughout 2020, even as the presidential candidates continue to debate the prospect of Medicare for All. 


Excuse me, do you work here?

The relationship between employer and employee is evolving as the digital revolution allows for business models that rely on more flexible employment terms. Regulators are working to maintain the rights of the American worker without stalling progress.

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Dietmar Serbee

Partner, Risk and Regulatory, PwC US

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