So this is the price of user data in the EU. The US$5bn antitrust ruling against Android.

The EU hit Google with a US$5bn fine for antitrust, and anticompetitive activity in forcing/incentivising phone manufacturers to install Android, and stick to Chrome rather than offering an alternative.

While Google has of course started the usual appeal against this decision, the real question is how much this actually means.

Sure, US$5bn is a lotta money, and some are arguing that it’s not enough money to dent the ambitions of the hyper rich Google, and while the initial comparisons to Microsoft’s antitrust battle with the EU (10 years ago, in a nice bit of serendipity) are apt, they also miss how much the industry has evolved. While antitrust is not the same type of ruling as data privacy, the systems nowadays are absolutely inseparable from user data and privacy sovereignty.

Most telling is that there’s no real meat to the ruling. Apart from a large dollar sum, there’s no resolution on what Google needs do to comply to the ruling apart from a general ‘give more options’.

It could be argued that this is an awkward time for the EU to be policing this, considering that GDPR is so fresh and really quite untested. It could also feasibly be argued that this shows how much the legal system may need to catch up with technology, if antitrust is considered seaprately from the implications of data sovereignty.

Or perhaps that’s not the point. Microsoft was fined US$1.35bn at the peak ruling. According to inflation calculators this is worth about US$1.58bn now, a difference of US$3.42bn to Google’s current fine.

Is this the license value that the EU is placing on its EU citizen data, so long as there is an opt-out clause to be found somewhere? Is this the win-win scenario – allowing for accessible low-cost devices with some sort of centralised regulation (better to negotiate with Google rather than negotiate terms with Oppo, Samsung, Huawei and other dispersed manufacturers on whatever proprietary OS and browsers they conceive?), and allowing Google to continue it’s approach as the “non-evil” option vs Apple?

So much for Google not being evil. The ruling shows that tech giants haven’t learned from the past. Even if Google were doing this out of an altruistic nature of offering a better option against Apple, and incentivising device manufacturers to provide a more governed browser/OS combination, the outcome is difficult to say the least.

Forbes makes a good point – will the sting happen for Google if the rest of the world follow suit in pursuing antitrust?


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