Europe Isn’t Ready To Start Policing Big Tech Companies After Getting All Eager, Report Finds

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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European regulators are not ready to enforce an imminent and lengthy set of rules that aims to compel big tech companies to implement greater privacy protections, among other measures, according to a Reuters survey.

Known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the broad law is fast approaching, coming into effect May 25 for all European Union member states. Companies that administer or manage European people’s data must have the ability to provide detailed reports for what identifiable information they possess and in what way they are using it. They will also be forced to alert authorities and involved individuals if they have experienced a cyber-breach within a 72-hour time frame.

Failure to comply with these two rules, and a number of others, will lead to penalties of up to 20 million euros (or 4 percent of a company’s annual turnover, whichever is more).

Out of 24 total national and regional watchdogs set to oversee the rollout and that responded to the Reuters survey, 17 responded they are ill-prepared to execute the exhaustive regulations.

Some authorities said they lack the needed funding, while others responded that to satisfy GDPR requirements, they need further powers. The nation’s domestic governments, in many cases, have not updated their laws to correspond with the larger European rules.

“We’ve realized that our resources were insufficient to cope with the new missions given by the GDPR,” said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, president of France’s CNIL data privacy watchdog, according to Reuters.

Johannes Caspar, the data protection commissioner in the German city-state of Hamburg, told Reuters he felt the data protection board mandated in GDPR is “a cumbersome — and for outsiders certainly opaque — exercise.”

Others are a bit more optimistic.

Antonello Soro, Italy’s data protection head, said the pan-EU law will provide a “guarantee against companies opening ‘convenience’ establishments in countries,” seemingly referring to the utilization or exploitation of countries as tax havens, or other alleged regulatory end-arounds.

Still, Italy’s budget, staff and overall resources are insufficient to what is likely to be necessary for a comprehensive GDPR enforcement plan, according to Reuters. (RELATED: Europe Vs. Silicon Valley: How The Continent Is Responding To Big Tech’s Growing Power) 

Europe, both the various nation states and the international governing body, have been sharpening the proverbial swords against U.S. tech companies for some time. Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s commissioner of competition, has been threatening action for many cases, and following through for some, making her an icon to many Europeans (and even Americans) who want governments to do more to limit big tech’s swelling power and influence.

But, whether they are prepared for a regulatory battle with Silicon Valley or not seems to be more dubious, as the extensiveness of the rules might prove to be too impractical for full-scale implementation — at least for now.

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