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EU: Vestager plans Big Tech policy report

 |  January 22, 2019

Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s top antitrust cop, is coming to the end of her term as antitrust enforcer, but not before she plans to release a report laying out a long-term plan to police the world’s largest tech companies.

Vestager has tussled with many of the big name tech companies, including Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. Her term ends in October 2019, so she’s working a report that will lead competition policies in the digital era, according to a report by the AP.

Feedback has been collected from companies, experts and business groups that show the need for more regulation, and her report — which is scheduled to be released in March — will reflect that need.

“The most important thing is that the majority of input is pro-enforcement,” she said. The industry she oversees can’t be allowed to shape itself, she said. “We are way beyond that.”

During her tenure as Commissioner for Competition, Vestager started three antitrust cases versus Google, one of which slapped the tech company with a €4.3 billion (US$5 billion) fine for forcing other companies to use its software on Android phones. She got the company hit with another €2.4 billion (US$2.8 billion) fine over the manipulation of shopping results from the search engine.

When she went head-to-head with Apple, she ordered the company to pay €13 billion (US$15 billion) in back taxes from Ireland. Apple CEO Tim Cook called the fine “total political crap.”

She’s also investigated the rampant use of data by large companies to evaluate users’ habits and histories. Last year, she launched an informal probe about whether Amazon is gaming the system by using data as an advantage on its own third-party merchants. She’ll know within six months, she said, whether she’s going to open an investigation formally. She also said she hopes the private sector will help with products that protect users’ data.

“I think you need products that will help you exercise your rights. Independent digital assistants that will make sure that your privacy settings are maintained no matter where you go. That kind of stuff,” she said.

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