EU set to target US tech firms in Ireland
The European Commission looks set to tighten its grip over how US internet giants do business in Europe, with new rules likely on how they collect and make money from data.
The move comes two weeks after the European authority announced a formal investigation into whether Google is abusing its monopoly position in the European online search market.
A new draft of the Commission's so-called 'digital single market' initiative proposes a widening of the kind of data-collection processes it will judge.
Companies such as Netflix, Airbnb and Whatsapp could come under closer scrutiny, as they increase their competitive challenge to existing telecoms, broadcasting and media firms.
The initiative is due to commence "before the end of 2015", according to the European Commission draft.
"Some online platforms have evolved to become players competing in many sectors of the economy and the way they use their market power raises a number of issues that warrant further analysis beyond the application of competition law in specific cases," says the draft, referring to its Google investigation.
It also promised to "review" whether on-demand services such as Netflix, which are sometimes "subject to lower obligations" than traditional rivals, should be brought into the same regulatory framework as older competitors.
The 'digital single market' draft document also promises to tackle the issue of 'geo-blocking', where broadcasters restrict access to movies and shows according to which country the user is in.
Recently, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said geo-blocking goes against the spirit of the single market. She said that the European Commission may launch a formal inquiry into the issue.
The European Commission's initiative comes amid warnings from some of Ireland's biggest technology multinationals that piling on more layers of regulation could start to hurt business growth in Europe.
"Facebook's costs would increase and people in Europe would notice new features arriving more slowly, or not at all," said Richard Allan, Facebook's vice-president of public policy in Europe in a column for the 'Financial Times' this week.
Mr Allan said that there was a growing threat from bureaucracy in Europe to the future availability of features from services such as Facebook.