Silicon Valley’s embarrassing nemesis, Margrethe Vestager, plans to end her term as the European Union’s antitrust enforcer this year with a bang, save up out a long-term plan to intensify scrutiny of the world’s big tech companies.
As the EU’s struggle commissioner, Vestager is arguably the world’s most important tech regulator. Since 2014, she has censured Google with eye-popping multibillion-dollar antitrust penalties, ordered Apple and Amazon to pay uphold taxes and fined Facebook over its WhatsApp acquisition — flagship enforcement cases that keep struck fear into Silicon Valley while drawing distinction in Washington.
Now, in her final year in office, the 50-year-old Danish politician is spending the groundwork for a new phase of regulation beyond the end of her term in October.
She’s planning a scrutinize meant to guide EU competition policies in the era of digitization. Feedback from suites, business groups and experts shows many see the need for more ordinance and when it’s published in March, the report by three expert advisers make reflect the need for new or tougher rules, she told The Associated Press in a current interview.
Digital technology watchdog
“The most important thing is that the lions share of input is pro-enforcement,” Vestager said during one of her frequent visits to Copenhagen from her Brussels subservient. The digital technology industry can no longer be allowed to shape itself, she reckoned. “We are way beyond that.”
It’s unclear yet what shape the new enforcement will remove but it may not bode well for the big U.S. technology companies that have landed in Vestager’s crosshairs.
Vestager has aristocratic a down-to-earth image — she likes to knit elephants during meetings — that belies her mighty powers of enforcement.
She opened three antitrust cases against Google, including one that be produced ended in a record 4.3 billion euro ($6.5 billion Cdn) fine for requiring cellphone makers to use the internet giant’s software on Android phones. Another 2.4 billion euro ($3.6 billion) fine was punishment for manipulating shopping search results. She aims to wrap up a exploration before her term ends of whether Google blocked rivals from its Adsense ad aid.
Vestager ordered Apple to pay back up to 13 billion euros ($19.6 billion Cdn) in dorsum behind taxes from Ireland. Apple CEO Tim Cook called it “total administrative crap” and President Donald Trump referred to her as the “tax lady” who “really enmities the U.S.”
The EU competition commissioner, with a 900-strong staff, is unusually tough in the Brussels bureaucracy because it can enforce bloc-wide rules, giving it the power to view as on countries and companies. Other departments typically share regulatory callings with national governments. Vestager’s job includes approving or rejecting amalgamations and investigating cartels and antitrust behaviour. She also makes sure EU countries don’t give tax breaks to individual companies that are not available to other corporations — licit business strategy in the U.S., but illegal in Europe.
Scrutiny of how data is handled
A lot of acclaim is now falling on data, the commodity that drives the digital economy.
Knowledge collected by web browsers, apps, smartphones and other devices can be enormously valuable to comrades because they can provide insight about, for example, an individual’s swallowing habits and movements. Data can power artificial intelligence or be used to prove targeted advertisements. Vestager is concerned that a small group of flocks could corner the market and abuse their power.
She started confronting the maladjusted with an informal probe launched last year into whether online seeking giant Amazon is using data to gain an edge on third person merchants, who are both its customers and rivals. She hopes to decide within six months whether to responsive a formal investigation.
Many people still aren’t sure how to functional control of their personal information. New European privacy rules make knew last year were a start, obliging companies to be more recognizable with customers about what they do with people’s text. But consumers are often still overwhelmed by detailed consent forms for third-party misplacing on each new site they visit or the fine print of an app’s service schedules.
Vestager, a member of a small left -ing political party who take its in free markets, said the private sector can play a role in judgement solutions.
Urges private sector to help enforce privacy
“I deem you need products that will help you exercise your righteouses. Independent digital assistants that will make sure that your secretiveness settings are maintained no matter where you go. That kind of stuff,” she signified.
Vestager, whose party was founded by her great-grandfather, was Denmark’s deputy prime charg daffaires and economy minister before taking up her post in Brussels in late 2014. She reportedly saves a sculpture of a hand with an extended middle finger in her office, a pourboire from a Danish trade union angered by her welfare cuts. She’s translated to be one of the inspirations for the lead character in the Danish TV show “Borgen,” about an zealous minor politician trying to become the country’s first female prime wait on.
Although Vestager’s term runs out in October, she’s hoping for a second economize, an unlikely prospect because her party is out of power in Denmark and its prospects look speculative in upcoming elections. The EU’s executive commissioners are nominated by their country’s controls.
“Sometimes things are unlikely but not impossible,” Vestager said. “I’m in the middle of something and we’re not done yet,” she augmented, referring to the new era of digital regulation.
Took on Starbucks, McDonald’s, Nike
Vestager studies off criticism that she’s stifling innovation by targeting U.S. companies to help prop up European decides. She has also taken on Starbucks, McDonald’s and this month opened an inquest into Nike’s tax arrangements. But other targets have included Italian automaker Fiat and Russian gas colossus Gazprom.
“When you look at our cases you’d see that what they hold in common is not nationality. It’s the fact that they’re multinationals,” she said.
Her aim, she says, is to room competition fair.
“That was the idea before the world became digital,” Vestager predicted. “And it becomes an even more important idea when the world becomes digital because whosises are so fast moving.”