The EU Battles the Tech Giants

The US leads the way as home to many of the largest technology companies in the world. But Europe leads the way in challenging the power of such companies and protecting the rights of citizens.

Europe V America

The EU is often criticised for low levels of economic growth and as a place where bureaucracy trumps enterprise and regulation stifles creativity. In the US, the growing influence of technology companies is often debated although politicians are heavily lobbied to counteract any policy changes. But as technology companies gain influence from the generation of monopoly size profits it is the EU that takes action to stop their domination of markets. Google and other tech giants face significant challenges from the EU, as it works to ensure open competition free from the grip of a small number of large companies. The EU is examining every aspect of the digital economy to make sure citizens rather than corporations are in control of their private data. It also forces technology companies to take responsibility for how they collect and sell the reams of information captured from customers.

Companies that grow to unbalance the economy have been regulated in the past but this time it is different, as the technology in question is used to undermine the democratic process and weaken the rights of citizens. The growth of the digital economy has increased the value of people’s personal details, as it is sold to generate obscene profits for already obscenely rich companies. And the question about who owns the data – the company that collects and misuses it or the person who supplies it – is at the heart of the matter.

A history of conflict

Europe’s history of conflict makes it sensitive to the dangers of the state or any other entity collecting information as a way to control people’s lives. As a result, the EU is a world leader in developing regulation to curb the dominance of large technology companies, as it takes an objective and rights based approach to markets. Its implementation of regulation highlights a willingness to develop innovative strategies to protect markets, regardless of short-term popularity or business driven pressure. The starting point in maintaining the balance of power for the individual is evident from the recent introduction of data protection regulations. Other developments include enabling users to switch providers with as little friction as possible and ensuring a level playing field for new entrants and smaller companies by insisting all platforms provide the same level of access to information.

Such an approach ensures fair markets that place the individual rather than the corporate entity at the centre. As proof of the EU’s ability to lead the world in this area other countries are adopting its practices to protect against the misuse of technology in their jurisdictions.

So, the EU’s skill in drafting regulation to limit the power of technology companies is gaining attention as countries around the world follow its lead.