One could crudely summarise the state of technology regulation between the US and EU as evenly divided: one has the technology, the other the regulation. Addressing the vexed issue of what to do about the power of the big technology platforms, European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen’s proposal for a US-EU ‘Common Technology Council’ therefore seems to make sense. The aim would be to create a ‘template for global digital regulation’ that the world could follow. There is a question about how far even a more collaborative US administration would be prepared to go in constraining the growth of its most successful companies. Although the last few years has shown a greater appetite for intervention, the US comes to the table backed by an economy whose global share has grown over the past ten years, while that of the EU has declined.
The EU’s last foray into creating a global regulation standard has had only partial success. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was hailed as world-leading framework when it was enabled in 2016. Since then, while many countries have adopted privacy standards, none beyond Europe have gone as far as GDPR. Most have been designed to work with it via ‘adequacy’ recognition. The suitability of GDPR in a world of AI, where personal ownership of data is impractical, has come into question. Scepticism hasn’t just come from the US, but from countries in Asia, South America and the Caribbean too.
It’s encouraging that the EU wishes to avoid the unilateral approach taken with GDPR. And it’s certainly the case that countries around the world, especially in Europe, are impatient to see some action taken to ‘rein in’ the power of the US platforms. But, as regulators and policymakers around the world have asserted repeatedly in IIC conferences, no-one wants to be handed someone else’s set of regulations without consultation. It’s sensible that a Common Technology Council begins as a US-EU collaboration. But if a ‘world-leading framework’ is truly to be the result, then the wider international community must also be given a voice.
A US-EU approach would be a good start, but it shouldn’t be an exclusive club
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