Once in a while, an old adage may be tweaked a bit.
Watch what people do, not what they say, goes the saying. We’ll amend it here to: “Watch what people say, and what they do.”
And if recent remarks on the state of Big Tech from Margrethe Vestager, European Commission executive vice president and commissioner, are any indication, the marquee roster of firms — from Facebook to Amazon to Apple — may face a bumpy regulatory road ahead.
In an interview with Politico, Vestager, one of the continent’s top regulators, said that cooperation between the U.S. and the EU is taking shape on Big Tech regulation. The stars are aligning due in part to the ascendancy of the Biden administration.
As Vestager told the site, the new administration represents a “dream come true,” adding that “I think it’s really, really interesting what is happening in the U.S. right now — both on competition law enforcement and the signals sent there, with Lina [Khan]’s appointment, with [Jonathan] Kanter, with the executive order.” Vestager was referring respectively to the new chair of the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice antitrust division appointee and Biden’s recent order aimed at promoting competition within the U.S. economy.
Generally speaking, she told the site about Big Tech: “What we want to achieve is that the really important decisions concerning how we use technology are taken in our democracy and not in closed boardrooms, because that doesn’t serve us well.” She recounted that, too, she is being microtargeted for bitcoin.
No on Bitcoin
“Why do you think I would want this? You must think I am crazy. But I get it so much. I get it in my mailbox, I get it in my feeds in whatever social media I use. That is just mind-boggling,” Vestager said.
A few nuggets within those comments are telling. Vestager may be a bit tongue in cheek about bitcoin, but the sentiments are clear that crypto gets a sidelong glance. A few years ago, of course, Vestager’s competition commission began launching investigations into Facebook’s proposed cryptocurrency, then called Libra (and now called Diem) to examine whether intervention would be necessary.
Read more: Regulators Probing Libra for Antitrust Issues
And as reported over the summer, Vestager said that the EU’s new policies, as contained in the Digital Markets Act, do not target Americans.
Related news: EU Digital Chief Rejects Concern That Regulation Is Anti-US
And against that backdrop, the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council may be the vehicle for the joint efforts to curb Big Tech, with a focus on data governance and technical standards.
Also see: EU Officials Talk Tech Regs at Inaugural Trade Summit in Pittsburgh
Vestager’s musing that the US administration’s recent picks and appointments represent a “dream” indicate that the US’ thinking is aligned more fully with the EU than before – which of course might cause some sleepless nights for big tech execs.
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