Tribune. In July 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that the agreement authorizing the transfer of European personal data to the United States, known as “Privacy Shield”, was null and void, because Europeans had no effective way to challenge U.S. government surveillance. In response, the Irish Data Protection Commission issued a preliminary order to Facebook to suspend data transfers from the European Union to the United States. However, in December 2021, Meta (new name of the Facebook group) felt entitled to continue the transfers, ignoring European decisions and demonstrating once again that the digital giants do not intend to comply with the injunctions of the States.
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Because, if its decision was a matter of common sense, the CJEU does not have the necessary means of pressure to enforce it. It is time to understand this for good: without mastering the technologies it is trying to regulate, Europe is in the position of a client dependent on a monopolistic company, whose missives in after-sales service would end up in the wastebasket.
And this situation, which concerns Facebook as much as all the Big Techs, is not limited to the sole subject of digital data: if the Big Techs dominate uses on the Web, they also take possession of the infrastructures of the Internet, such as that the submarine telecommunications cables through which 98% of our online activity pass, and become the digital pillar of 5G and “New Space” [l’utilisation commerciale de l’espace par des acteurs privés]. Finally, the lack of mastery of technologies weakens our ability to negotiate with these players as well as with the major states that support them, starting with China and the United States.
Ensuring respect for the law
An industrial strategy based on technological development therefore appears necessary to rebalance this relationship and to be able to guarantee respect for the law. This must first target the key sectors of health or homeland security, in order to break the current dependencies on these companies, such as Microsoft – which hosts the Health Data Hub, a platform centralization of French health data – or Palantir – a company created with the support of the CIA, under contract with the General Directorate of Internal Security.
A plan to gradually replace Big Tech tools and services with European solutions is needed, starting with public procurement, which could be explicitly oriented towards national and European tools. This also presupposes questioning the French label “Cloud of trust”, because it promotes – and even accelerates – the adoption of technologies from Big Tech without at the same time proposing an alternative strategy to get rid of them. Defended by a Secretary of State in charge of digital [Cédric O] which appeared, in September 2021, wearing a Google-stamped T-shirt during a match at the Parc des Princes, this label is a Trojan horse which allows Google and Microsoft to sign juicy contracts with Thalès and Orange to sell, through them, services to companies and administrations. Big Tech thus delegates legal responsibility to local companies but retains exclusive control over the technology.
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