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Why and how does the regulation of emerging technologies occur? Explaining the adoption of the EU General Data Protection Regulation using the multiple streams framework
Regulation & Governance  (IF5.4),  Pub Date : 2021-02-23, DOI: 10.1111/rego.12387
Nihit Goyal, Michael Howlett, Araz Taeihagh

Why and how the regulation of emerging technologies occurs is not clear in the literature. In this study, we adapt the multiple streams framework – often used for explaining agenda-setting and policy adoption – to examine the phenomenon. We hypothesize how technological change affects policy-making and identify conditions under which the streams can be (de-)coupled. We trace the formulation of the General Data Protection Regulation to show that the regulation occupied the legislative agenda when a policy window was exploited through policy entrepreneurship to frame technological change as a problem for data privacy and legislative harmonization within the European Union. Although constituencies interested in promoting internet technologies made every effort to stall the regulation, various actors, activities, and events helped the streams remain coupled, eventually leading to its adoption. We conclude that the alignment of problem, policy, politics, and technology – through policy entrepreneurship – influences the timing and design of technology regulation.