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Why Europe, not Congress, will control the great technology

  Helen Dixon, commissioner of data protection for Ireland, will become the chief police for the US technological giants. UU

Helen Dixon, data protection commissioner for Ireland, will become the chief police for the US technological giants. UU [19659003] Helen Dixon, data protection commissioner for Ireland, is ready to …

DUBLIN – US lawmakers demonstrated an appetite for regulating technology giants when they questioned the CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg on privacy last week. But it is less likely that the future of Facebook's relationship with its 2 billion users will be determined from the halls of Congress than from a modest 18th-century home in the Irish capital filled with lawyers, technology experts and undercover investigators.


Europe has been moving aggressively to impose order in the technological space. He has already inflicted painful penalties on Apple and Google for their business practices.

Now, technology companies are preparing to sweep away the new privacy rules that will take effect next month across the European Union. They could face millions in fines if they do not give European users much more control over their personal information.


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To read this article in one of the most spoken languages ​​of Houston, click on the button below. [19659009] If the US Congress UU Follow the European model, as some lawmakers did last week, or if the big technology companies determine that it is too cumbersome to treat the 500 million people in the EU unlike the rest of the world, Europe will probably continue to set the global pace of an aggressive regulation.

"As a first impulse, that has become a baseline," said Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council. , a commercial group based in Washington for technology giants such as Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google. Europe "increasingly establishes the norm".

And Europeans have adopted the role.

"The EU is a real regulatory superpower, and exports its values ​​and standards," said Christopher Kuner, director of Brussels. Privacy hub at the Free University of Brussels.

At the center of the action is Helen Dixon, Ireland's data protection commissioner. Because the European operations of many large technology companies are based in Ireland with low taxes, Dixon will become the main police for US technological giants. UU Like Facebook, Google, Apple, LinkedIn and Airbnb when the new privacy regime comes into force on May 25, she will have the power to slap companies with fines of up to 4 percent of global revenues, which for Facebook could mean fines of up to $ 1.6 billion.

"Your business model is based on the monetization of personal data, and this creates challenges in terms of people's fundamental rights and freedoms," Dixon said in an interview at his office in Dublin. "It creates a type of surveillance and monitoring of individuals through the Internet that undoubtedly needs regulation."

The latest Facebook scandal has been perfectly synchronized to draw attention to the long-term planned privacy rules in Europe. On April 4, the company said that "malicious actors" had used their search tools to match email addresses and previously pirated phone numbers with Facebook profiles. This follows the company's report that Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm hired by President Donald Trump during its 2016 campaign, inappropriately accessed 87 million Facebook users, "likes" and other personal information, in many cases without your knowledge or consent. The matter has spawned investigations on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Europe, Dixon joins an elite range of executors, many of whom are women, with power over the technology industry in the United States.

Its partners include Andrea Jelinek, an Austrian data protection regulator who is expected to head a new board of the EU consumer privacy police.

In the E.U. Brussels capital, the chief justice officer, Vera Jourova, has challenged Facebook in recent weeks for the Cambridge Analytica mishap.

And then there's Margrethe Vestager, the head of the block's competition. She criticized Google with a fine of almost $ 3 billion and is forcing him to review how he presents the results of sponsored purchases. She is getting Apple to pay $ 16 billion in taxes to Ireland.

Vestager, who was in Washington, DC, said Friday that he is focusing more and more on issues related to user data, a development that has encouraged privacy advocates and technology companies. They cooled down and complained that they were being chosen for their success.

"It has become almost a habit to investigate data problems when we conduct a merger procedure, antitrust proceedings," Vestager told reporters.

an asset, "he said in a follow-up interview." You can extract it, you can work it, you can do completely different things. "She said regulators treated the data as a" completely different creature "than they did five years ago.

US state officials have taken the signs of their antitrust strategy, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley imitated his research on Google, for example, and demanded that the company provide him with the same evidence.

] "People like Josh Hawley do not want European consumers to enjoy better protections than the people of Missouri, so when you have this the disparity in the way the law is applied, puts pressure on other jurisdictions to say: "What is it we miss?" ", said Luther Lowe, vice president of government relations at Yelp, the review website, Yelp has been Google's main antagonist in the US

The United States was surprised by Facebook's privacy scandal. improve the government's ability to investigate and penalize technology giants that misuse the most sensitive consumer information, but Congress has not yet passed a single comprehensive privacy law for the digital era, stumbling in large part because to the partisan war and the intense and well-funded lobbying efforts of Silicon Valley.

Still, lawmakers are clearly intrigued by what Europe is doing.

"Would you support legislation to support that general principle: that the Acceptance, that getting permission, is the standard? "Senator Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., asked Zuckerberg during the first of the two days of hearings. "The Europeans have approved it as a law, Facebook will live with that law as of May 25. Would you support that as the law in the United States?"

Zuckerberg tried to reassure users in the United States that they would get the same privacy controls as Europeans after the new laws came into force, although some room for maneuver was allowed over the details.

"I think everyone in the world deserves a good protection of privacy," said Zuckerberg. "Regardless of whether we implement exactly the same regulation, I suppose it would be something different, because we have somewhat different sensitivities in the US As in other countries."

For their part, European politicians have enjoyed their state of tendencies.

"The American public is now realizing that perhaps Europeans have done something that interests them," said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German member of the European Parliament who played a leading role in drafting the privacy regulation . [19659006] Now the technology companies are preparing for the privacy rules.

In Ireland, the new powers will be a big change for a regulator that until recently opted for a lax approach with the big technology companies.

Some critics say that Irish officials were sustaining their blows due to economic growth dependent on the country's technology.

"I'm not sure how much influence there is on him, how much there is politics and how much there is a general consensus in Ireland about not regulating the great giants of the United States," said Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy advocate who noted repeated legal victories against Dixon's predecessor.

People who have seen Dixon work say that his style can be conciliatory rather than confrontational. Critics say that his office has not always been aggressive in defending the rights of citizens.

"You have a culture within the institution that is based on limited use of legal enforcement mechanisms and more on persuasion," said T.J. McIntyre, a law professor who is the president of Digital Rights Ireland, a group that has questioned how the Irish government retains information about its citizens.

But observers say that Dixon's enhanced resources and enforcement powers are likely to give him new ammunition while pushing companies to go online.

Just four years ago, Ireland's data protection office was a haven, with 25 employees housed in a convenience store outside of Dublin.

When Dixon took the reins at the end of 2014, he fought for more funds, quadrupled his staff and moved to the capital. The Georgian townhouse is within walking distance of the new vitreous technology district that has been formed around a dock area, once scruffy. Dixon plans to hire another 40 employees this year.

"I do not think the data protection authority was sufficiently staffed at the time I took office," said Dixon. "I think it has been rectified."

Still, the application may require a fight: both Google and Apple have appealed the Vestager lawsuits against them.

The new E.U. The rules, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, will give people more control over their personal data. Companies will have to explain what they will use the data for and give users clear choices about whether to accept or not. People could force companies to return data if they wanted to leave a service.

Vestager, the head of competition, said the goal is to ensure that web users "feel they have some control" of their data. [19659006] He mentioned the recent problems of Facebook with Cambridge Analytica.

"I think the situation is quite good, because very often, when something happens that directs people's attention to a problem, one says:" Oh, it's new, it has to regulate, "she said. . In this case, he said, Europe already has a legal framework that "in fact, allows the individual to assert his rights".

Romm reported from Washington. Quentin Ariès in Brussels contributed to this report.


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