Data Driven Futures

Scourge of tech giants takes on EU digital policy

Written by Hannah McGrath

Brussels is bracing for further battles with the world’s tech giants after Margrethe Vestager was confirmed as staying on as the EU’s competition watchdog in a beefed up role which puts her in charge of digital policy.

Vestager, a Danish politician who has built up a reputation as the scourge of US tech titans after doling out fines of €8 billion to Google and €100 million to Facebook in competition cases, was confirmed as the EU competition commissioner with an expanded remit for making “Europe fit for the digital age.”

In addition to leading the competition commission, Vestager will join the cabinet of incoming European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen as “executive vice-president, Europe fit for the digital age.”

In a statement posted to her Twitter account, Vestager said she was “Happy for and humbled by the task ahead.”

The move signals that Von der Leyen is likely to approve of a tougher stance for the EU commission towards global tech giants such as Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google when it comes to taxes on profits, competition and data privacy issues – an approach which has drawn criticism from US president Donald Trump.

In a statement announced Vestager as part of her cabinet, Von der Leyen said: “Digitalisation has a huge impact on the way we live, work and communicate. In some fields, Europe has to catch up — like for business to consumers — while in others we are frontrunners — such as in business to business.

She added: “We have to make our single market fit for the digital age, we need to make the most of artificial intelligence and big data, we have to improve on cybersecurity and we have to work hard for our technological sovereignty."

The appointments will need to be approved by the European parliament in October next month before the new commission formally takes office in 1 November.