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How Ireland lost its chance to become Big Tech’s ‘super regulator’


Many large U.S. tech companies maintain their European headquarters here.

Artur Widak | Nurphoto | Getty Images

The European Commission will directly enforce EU rules that will force Big Tech content to be policing on the internet aggressively. Experts say this will decrease the role Ireland played in supervising the digital titans of the region.

The Data Protection Commission of Ireland has been supervising Facebook’s parent company since 2018. MetaAnd GoogleUnder the European Union General Data Protection RegulationThe aims to provide consumers with more control over their data.

This is because Meta and Google are among the most prominent U.S. technology firms. MicrosoftDublin is the European headquarters of. favorable tax regime.

The DPC in Ireland has however faced criticismOver the years, for not being able to conduct major privacy investigations quickly and failing to impose substantial penalties.

Paul-Olivier Dehaye (founder of Personal Data), a Swiss non-profit focused on online privacy and security, stated that Ireland remains an obstacle to GDPR enforcement.

According to the Irish DPC, such criticisms are not complete and do not fit into context.

Nevertheless, the recently approved Digital Services ActIreland won’t be the centre of EU’s crackdown on Big Tech. In addition to the new antitrust framework in Brussels, there is also the Digital Markets ActThese rules are the biggest reforms in internet policy that the bloc has ever seen.

Large online platforms will be required to quickly remove any illegal content, such as child sexual abuse or hate speech, under the DSA. Otherwise, multi-billion dollar fines could result.

Were we meant to be here?

Original text of DSA gave authorities the power to punish large online platforms that violated the law.

EU members resisted this because they were concerned that it might lead to delays in enforcement. And eventually, the European Commission — the executive arm of EU — was given enforcement powers instead.

Johnny Ryan from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties stated that “we warned the government” about this one year ago. This has been evidently obvious for quite some time.”

Businesses that break the rules could face penalties up to 6% on their worldwide annual revenues. Meta could face a $7 billion fine. This is actually less than the GDPR maximum 10% penalties.

Problem is, imposing such heavy fines can lead to costly appeals by tech companies. From Critics EU officialsPrivacy campaigners claim that Ireland’s DPC lacks the ability to handle such backlash.

DPC spokesperson stated that they had recently published three reports: Our annual report for 2021; a report about cross-border complaints, under GDPR; and an independent audit by internal auditors. These all show that the DPC in Ireland is clearly meeting its obligations regarding the application of GDPR.

More than 1 Billion euros has been spent on penalties since the GDPR became effective. Last year, the largest penalty was imposed by GDPR. Luxembourg data watchdogThe fines were imposed by the Amazon746 millions euros to be punished for breaking the bloc’s rules.

Ireland could be the centre of the universe. It could be the super regulator.

Johnny Ryan

Senior Fellow, Irish Council for Civil Liberties

Ireland’s 225 million GDPR fineIt was second in the number of complaints against WhatsApp. Both companies appeal the decisions.

The ICCL reports that the DPC delivered rulings in only 2% of EU-wide case since the introduction of the GDPR.

The Irish government insists that the country “plays a critical role” in the implementation and maintenance of the DSA.

CNBC was told by a spokesperson of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment that “the DSA provides for an network of national authorities and European Commission, cooperating together, exchanging data and conducting joint investigations.”

‘Watershed moment’

Owen Bennett is senior policy manager for Mozilla. He said that this development was a crucial moment in Big Tech supervision within the EU.

Bennett said that Ireland was the European regulator of almost all the major tech companies for years. The DSA sets a precedent to centralize Big Tech oversight in Brussels and not Dublin.

It would surprise me if this does not become a trend over the next few years, with the European Commission playing a larger role in enforcing regulations against Big Tech.

Also, the European Commission will be the only enforcer for the directive. Digital Markets ActThis is a measure to combat so-called “gatekeepers” who are trying to harm competition. Google, for example, would not be allowed to give preference to its search results over those of rival engines.

The DMA allows firms to be fined as high as 10% of their annual global turnover for failing to comply with the rules. For repeated violations, this could rise to 20%.

Ryan said that Ireland “could have been at the centre of the globe.” “It could have been the super regulator, the super enforcer — basically the center of decision making for these companies.”

It’s unlikely that this will happen, unfortunately.

It has been the EU that pioneered the introduction of digital regulations. Now, governments from the U.S., U.K. as well as other nations are trying to get in on the action.

The administration of President Joe Biden has been in Washington tapped prominent Big Tech criticsTo lead antitrust enforcement against the companies while Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leading in Britain. landmark digital reformsIt is its own.