Does Europe not just want to protect its data? Digital race!

Illustration and text Susanne Gold

“European Alliance on Industrial Data and Cloud” is the name of the initiative for which the European Community intends to provide €10 billion.

The size of this sum alone makes it clear that Europe is serious!

It wants to catch up in terms of digitization and keep up globally in the future. For the European Cloud, two of the ten billion euros will be provided by the EU programmes themselves, the remaining eight billion will be financed by the Member States. It seems that Europe’s government has doubts that European data is not safe in the hands of big global technology companies. The Europe Cloud is designed to enable European citizens and businesses to process and store their data securely. Tech companies from the US in particular are now under close scrutiny in Europe.

Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple: the end of their influence in Europe?

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager reported that a break-up of internet companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google & Co. is unlikely in Europe. EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton sees this more drastically. He believes that in the extreme case a break-up of the tech groups is possible. At the beginning of December Vestager will present a “black list” for mainly US tech companies, which will define what platforms are allowed to do and what not. The Financial Times already called this list Europe’s “hit list”.

The list includes at least 20 large tech companies, such as Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple – in other words, mainly large US players. The corporations would be suspected of having exerted too much influence on European companies. In parallel, a class action lawsuit has already been filed against Google. The accusers? European companies who feel disadvantaged!

Not only under EU attack: Google!

Google is also threatened with legal consequences in the USA. The US Department of Justice and 11 US states have brought a competition lawsuit against the internet giant. Not only that – with its business strategy Google has also turned another industry against itself.

There is no question that the Corona crisis has hit the travel industry particularly hard.

Due to the lockdown, most companies in this sector lost sales. The reluctance of travel enthusiasts is having a lasting impact on the industry. In addition, the travel providers are under additional pressure, which was triggered by Google’s efforts to build up their own travel offers. However, it is precisely the tour operators with digital sales models that are dependent on Google for their customer acquisition.

Affected start-ups such as FlixMobility, Trivago, GetYourGuide, HomeToGo and Omio want to defend themselves against the activities of the American corporate giant and have filed a competition complaint with the European Union.

The concrete accusation of the travel operators against Google is abuse of power and attempted monopolization. Google itself denies the allegations and indicates difficulties in asserting itself against established start-ups with its own travel offer.

Which companies will be blacklisted in Europe?

The selection of other companies to be scrutinised and regulated by the EU will be based on criteria such as market share, number of users and the degree of dependency that binds other companies to the big players. Future requirements could include, among others, an obligation to share collected user data with other companies and a significant increase in transparency.

Power struggle? Facebook even brings its departure from the EU into play

Yvonne Cunnane, a lawyer at Facebook Ireland, indicated in an affidavit to an Irish court that the company may be “unable to continue operating platforms such as Facebook and Instagram in the EU” because of European data protection rules. This statement followed after the Irish data protection authority, on the instructions of the European Court of Justice, began investigating Facebook’s data transfers to the states. Indeed, the EU’s basic data protection regulation prohibits the transfer of personal data to non-EU states. A final decision is still pending.

A European strategy to stand up to the giants?

At present, European companies that want to push ahead with digitization are often on the way to becoming digitally dependent. Mainly because their business plans push them – for lack of European alternatives – to the infrastructures of the major cloud providers whose headquarters are outside European jurisdiction. Enterprise software, personal data and business critical information open the door to monopolization for non-European cloud providers. Once the data is on servers abroad, the European data protection regulation, the DSGVO, simply does not apply to this data.

The European cloud is designed to combat this digital disadvantage while ensuring that Europe’s legal standard is maintained.

The planned Europe Cloud will therefore focus on AI developments, 5G/6G networks and the Internet of Things, among other things. The primary aim is to strengthen European products over Chinese and American products, which have clearly dominated the market so far. The private data of European citizens, which is produced by the use of social media, will also be an exciting topic.

Perhaps in the future there will also be new European social media platforms that take into account Europe’s high ethical standards in terms of data security?

It would be nice!

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