European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has been given additional responsibilities related to digital affairs. And yes, that’s bad news for U.S.-based tech giants.
“Executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager will lead our work on a Europe fit for the digital age,” EC president-elect Ursula von der Leyen said at a press conference today. “Digitalization has a huge impact on the way we live, we work, we communicate. In some fields Europe has to catch up. For example, in the field of business to consumer but in other fields we’re excellent. Europe is the frontrunner, for example in business to business, when we talk about digital twins of products and procedures.”
Under the new administration, Vestager will retain her position as Competition Commissioner, so this expansion of her responsibilities is a promotion and it suggests that she will expand EU efforts at reigning in Big Tech. To date, Vestager has amassed massive legal victories over both Google and Apple, and she’s targeting Amazon, Facebook, and Google with further investigations already.
As the chief of the EU’s digital affairs, Vestager’s responsibilities will extend beyond antitrust to include the pending 5G rollout and whether—and where—Huawei and other Chinese firms will be allowed to participate. She will also work on EU guidelines related to ethical AI—a big push by Microsoft worldwide—and how big data can be used without violating individual privacy. And Vestager has been further charged with overseeing the EU’s cybersecurity efforts.
“Vestager has done an outstanding job as a commissioner for competition,” von der Leyen said. “At competition and the issues she’s tackling, there are closely linked to the digital sector too. So having her as an executive vice-president for the digital in Europe is absolutely a perfect combination.”