The DPAs’ Strategy: United We Stand
Europe Isn’t Trying to Destroy Google’s Business
The Biggest Impact could be on Google Apps, not Search
Both Sides are Playing for Time
This brings us to a key subtext behind the Article 29 Working Party’s latest action against Google. Today we are witnessing what the French call a “bras de fer” – an “arm of iron” or arm-wrestling match – between two opponents determined to apply all the force they can muster to drive the other to concede. But at the same time we are watching a game of chess, where the players make crafty moves that they hope will encircle the opponent and seize a victory by surprise. While the enforcement battle between Google and the DPAs is taking place in full public view, the second game is taking place in meetings of both the European Parliament and Council. The object of this game for Google is to change the greatly strengthened European privacy rules in the new Regulation before they can be used against it. The object for the DPAs is to hang on long enough for these rules to come into effect, at which time their ability to extract concessions from Google will be greatly enhanced.
Away from public view, Google and its allies are engaged in a stealthy but ferocious battle to strip the future Data Protection Regulation of the powerful new enforcement mechanisms built into it by its authors at the European Commission. The prime target of this effort is the provision which would allow national DPAs to inflict fines on violators of up to 2% of world turnover – the same as the current anti-trust powers of the Commission. This lobbying effort has produced angry pushback from both the Commission and the DPAs as well as a wide range of EU opinion leaders (the latest group to protest is an association of European academics). But at the moment it is very difficult to get a clear picture of who is winning the battle of amendments. We will have to wait until we see the final version of the Regulation submitted for a vote to the Parliament in late May and for the Council general approach, which should be adopted in early June, paving the way for trilogue negotiations between Commission, Parliament and Member States. In the meantime, regulators, online service providers and privacy advocates around the world will be closely watching the cautious but determined efforts of Europe’s Data Protection Authorities to reign in the market power of the world’s largest advertising firm.
–Commentary by SafeGov expert Jeff Gouldsafegoveu