Europe’s Digital Czar Slams Google, Facebook; Google's European shake-up
Europe’s Digital Czar Slams Google, Facebook
Call for creation of single set of EU-wide rules governing data protection, copyright
Europe’s digital czar Günther Oettinger said Europe should counter the dominance of U.S. Internet giants by creating a single set of EU-wide rules governing issues such as data protection and copyright.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
BRUSSELS—Europe’s digital czar Günther Oettinger fired off a broadside at Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. on Tuesday, warning that the U.S. technology giants are exploiting legal loopholes in Europe to gather and sell individuals’ personal data.
The comments underline the deep concerns in Europe’s highest policy circles about the power of U.S. technology companies, as the European Union prepares key decisions on how to reshape its digital sector and where to take a long-running antitrust case against Google.
In a speech in Brussels, Mr. Oettinger, Germany’s powerful representative to the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said Europe should counter the dominance of U.S. Internet companies by creating a single set of EU-wide rulesgoverning issues such as data protection and copyright.
“The Americans are in the lead, they’ve got the data, the business models and so the power,” he said.
European governments are currently completing an EU-wide data-privacy law that will likely impose tough new restrictions on how tech companies can use personal data.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Google and Facebook “will go to the member states where data protection is least developed, come along with their electronic vacuum cleaner, take it to California and sell it for money,” Mr. Oettinger said. Google and Facebook both have their European headquarters in Ireland.
That is why “we need one European data-protection law,” Mr. Oettinger said.
Facebook declined to comment. Google didn’t respond to a request for comment.
European governments are currently completing an EU-wide data-privacy law that will likely impose tough new restrictions on how technology companies can use personal data. Policy makers have said they hope to reach a final agreement on the law by year-end.
Data privacy plays a much bigger role in the public debate in Europe than it does in the U.S., in part because of the legacy of totalitarian regimes in Germany and other European countries during the past century. Those concerns were aggravated by last year’s revelations of widespread Internet surveillance of Europeans by U.S. security services.
The EU’s data-privacy overhauls are part of wider plans to build a single digital market that knits together the region’s 28 different Web systems. The commission has pledged to unveil those plans by May.
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal last month, Mr. Oettinger said the EU might impose taxes on U.S. Internet companies as part of that plan.
The European Commission is also set to decide in the coming months whether to file formal charges against Google for allegedly abusing its dominance of online search in Europe, where its market share exceeds 90%.
Mr. Oettinger said on Tuesday that the scale of the biggest U.S. technology companies means that “the Americans have been able to define quite a number of different rules.”
“We’ve got to ensure that our economy stays on board,” he said.