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Facebook Exec Warns That Lawsuits Will Cripple Innovation In Europe

European lawsuits will make EU startups less competitive, a Facebook official writes in an op-ed.

Facebook Exec Warns That Lawsuits Will Cripple Innovation In Europe
[Photo: © ROBERT GALBRAITH/Reuters/Corbis]

Europe, threatened by the dominance of U.S. tech giants, has become increasingly aggressive in its efforts to limit Silicon Valley’s power and make European firms more competitive. But if a company like Facebook is held back by stringent policies, European startups will be, too, argues Facebook chief of public policy Richard Allan in an op-ed in the Financial Times.

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Recent investigations by regulators in Belgium and the Netherlands, which allege that Facebook does not comply with individual nations’ privacy policies, would set a dangerous precedent for all tech companies, Allan says, and trade and interstate progress would slow dramatically. Facebook would have to shift from complying with one EU standard to complying with 28 standards from each EU nation. And there would be consequences for Europe’s Facebook users, Allan threatens: Facebook feature rollouts would slow down or not arrive at all.

Allan concludes with a doomsday scenario in which future startups would be hamstrung by the Facebook precedent and terminally slowed trying to comply with every nation’s regulations. Europe’s very future, he says, might be at stake if such innovation is stymied.

“We know from experience that getting a company off the ground is hard enough already,” Allan writes in the Financial Times. “And if regulation at the national level is adopted, it could stop start-ups before they even really get started. At a time when Europe is looking to create jobs and grow its economy, the results could be disastrous.”

Allan’s op-ed sidesteps the privacy questions that brought the EU lawsuits in the first place: that Facebook tracks Internet users with cookies, even if the person is not a Facebook user or has explicitly opted out of being tracked. But he does bring up an important issue for Europe. Does the EU want a single set of pan-EU regulations (as the U.S. has across its states), or does it want Facebook and other tech companies to comply with each and every EU nation’s individual regulations?

In February, President Obama dismissed general European criticisms of U.S. tech titans in a Re/code interview, calling their complaints a smokescreen to carve out more market space for local tech business.

[via The Verge]

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