Alibaba’s Ma Worries EU Regulations Will Stifle Tech Innovation

Alibaba CEO Jack Ma

Jack Ma, the Chinese billionaire and founder of Alibaba, expressed concerns technology companies will be harmed by increased regulation coming out of Europe.

CNBC, citing comments Ma made during the Viva Technology Conference in Paris Thursday (May 16), reported Ma said increased rules and laws hurt innovation and restrict tech companies. “Everything they do is full with rules and laws,” Ma said of Europe, according to the report. “And everything they think about, they start to worry. When they worry, they make rules and laws.”

With lawmakers and regulators around the world clamping down on technology companies, the European Union has become one of the fiercest critics of tech companies. Take the General Data Protection Regulation, which passed in June and goes into effect in 2020. Under GDPR rules, companies face fines of up to 4 percent of global revenue or 20 million euros ($22.82 million) — whichever is higher — if they don’t protect consumer data. They are required to be transparent in how they use consumers’ data and get permission before doing anything with it. Before, the penalties were only a few hundred thousand euros.

On the artificial intelligence (AI) front, the European Union has published guidelines to ensure technology companies are using AI ethically. Alibaba has focused a lot of attention and investment dollars in AI. Ma used his speech to push back against privacy concerns about the technology. He said AI is used within the company to prevent fraud with Alipay, the digital payment app.

Alibaba has also invested in AI startups such as SenseTime, which in January was expected to have a valuation of $2 billion. SenseTime focuses on systems to analyze faces and images on a huge scale and works with policing entities. It also works with retailers and healthcare researchers, across the country and beyond.

“If you think the technology revolution is a problem, I’m sorry to say a problem just started,” Ma said. “If you think it’s an opportunity, the opportunity just started. The only thing is your mentality. If the mentality is now a worry, you’ll worry all the time.”


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