Earlier this week, the European Parliament voted in favour of breaking up the commercial entities that make up search engines such as Google. Whilst the European parliament has no real power in these matters, it does make a clear political statement and puts pressure on those with the power to take action – the European Commission.
Specifically, the vote is attempting to direct the European Commission to “enforce EU competition rules [and] to consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services”.
Essentially, this means that search engines, like Google, must separate their search engine business from their other commercial entities such as Android etc.
Why? The European Parliament cited these motives:
– Increasing tax revenues
– Promoting “non-discriminatory online search”
– Preventing the “secondary exploitation” of search data
– Developing uniform rules for cloud computing
– Promoting net neutrality
Obviously, money is always a motivator for the EU who look at overseas companies such as Google, who mainly operate out of Ireland here in Europe (who are not in the EU), as a missed tax opportunity.
While the second point states “non-discriminatory online search”, it should really be translated to a search engine which the EU can control. Anyone working in search knows it’s within Google’s interest to develop a search algorithm which provides users with the best information related to their search query. Why would parliament want to change this?
Data and privacy is a hot topic at the moment with much being done to inject panic among everyday web users. While it’s true that Google and other search engines have amassed a lot of data, the same can be said of other companies and organisations. Why should search engines be singled out?
The final two points really make me chuckle as these two colliding statements could quite easily sit at opposing ends of an argument. In Europe, there’s a power struggle forming over control of the Internet. Governments are only just waking up to this and are rapidly producing laws and legislations to lock down the web.
We laugh at the absurd restrictions imposed in North Korea and the ‘great firewall of China’ but are powerless to stop our own governments doing the same to us here.
The EU calls for “net neutrality” in the same breath it instructs ISPs to block access to websites they deem to infringe copyright and order Google to allow people to omit themselves/information from search results. Anti-trust and anti-terror laws undermine our freedom of speech online. While on the surface these legislations and crack-downs may appear innocuous, the ramifications for the future of the Internet are staggering.
The vote stokes a fire which has been burning for quite a while, with many previous instances of the EU interfering with Google’s activities in Europe. Although the tech giant clearly has a stranglehold on the European search market, is it fair to pursue such harsh action?