The new digital age has opened up a whole new world of possibilities, but it also leaves regulatory challenges that governments are trying to get used to. The EU has already approved several rules to regulate digital content and assign duties to technological giants such as Google or Amazon, such as combating illegal content, holding digital platforms accountable for their algorithms and improving content moderation. But there are spaces left in limbo, according to a report by the European left (GUE/NGL) that focuses on the risks of the so-called ‘Big Tech’ monopolizing data control.
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Taxes, labor rights, the fight against climate change, public services… are some of the challenges that remain pending in digital commerce, according to GUE/NGL, which aims to “debate and regulate on the ground about privacy but also the economic governance of the data”.
“While the EU is advancing new government digital economy laws, it is promoting a digital commerce policy that contradicts and would severely constrain the design of current and future public interest policies,” the group’s document states. : “Through a series of bilateral and regional agreements, Big Tech is seeking to maintain a policy that favors private control of technological resources and practices and control.”
“With its digital commerce proposals, the European Commission is once again putting business profits above consumer protection,” says La France Insoumise MEP Emmanuel Maurel. “At a time when we see the urgent need for accountability for artificial intelligence, the European proposal for digital commerce will allow governments to hold technology giants accountable,” adds Helmut Scholz of Die Linke.
The report denounces that large technology companies are benefiting from a tax policy that leaves out some products (such as music, books or online movies) under the argument of benefiting SMEs, while pointing out that companies such as Netflix, Apple or Amazon the ones that get the most revenue. But it doesn’t just refer to direct taxes, but also the “prohibition of governments to require a copy of data” that help companies to have less tax implications.
“Countries need tax revenue (eg from ‘Big Tech’ taxes) to fund their transition. The proposals of the big technology companies to limit the capacity of the states to tax their activities will reduce these necessary investments”, says the document, which gives as an example of risk the fight against climate change by a sector that consumes 10% of the world’s electricity and generates 4% of CO2 emissions.
The battle is also in the use of algorithms that, according to the text, allow companies to place their products above others, despite Amazon – which is the nominated company – always denying it. “The exceptions, including the rules of digital commerce, are not enough to twist the arm of these practices”, says the report signed by researcher Deborah James, which highlights that the current regulation works for specific cases, but does not require the disclosure of a general rule . .
But algorithms are not only dangerous for this sector of the economy, according to the report, but digital trading rules can affect financial regulation and cybersecurity.
“Decisions in the financial sector [como quién recibe una hipoteca para una casa o quién accede un seguro en base a los riesgos] they are increasingly determined by algorithms that must be subject to regulatory oversight and public scrutiny. Furthermore, the increasing automation of stock market operations poses enormous risks in terms of financial stability,” argues the report, which regrets that trading regulations often prevent authorities from accessing this information.
Likewise, it undertakes that unions have access to the data and algorithms on which employment-related decisions are based and that they are part of collective bargaining. The report gives as an example the tool announced by the vice-president and Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, included in the law knightto facilitate access to these labor algorithms.
It also advocates public-private collaboration with large corporations to increase the digitization of public services. And it is that one of the criticisms is that a large part of the data generated in Europe is in the hands of foreign companies “which should be obliged to share this data for the benefit of Europeans” for the development of public policies.