You may never have heard of Neelie Kroes but now is the time to change that — she has the most profound influence over the future development of the global web of any human on the planet. How come? Neelie Kroes is the “European Digital Agenda Commissioner” and a Vice-President of the European Commission. She is in charge of the Digital Agenda for Europe which means creating “Improved standard-setting procedures and increased interoperability as the keys to success”. Most significantly, this means that Ms Kroes is respondible for protecting intellectual property rights online;updating the eCommerce Directive; reviewing the EU data protection rules (which means checking out cookies) and putting forward a code of EU online rights.
For those of us who work in international European online marketing, this means that Neelie Kroes is in our space and potentially in our faces — except that many in the industry have never even heard of her. Additionally, because most web regulation comes out of Europe — where privacy and competition issues are more closely regulated that in the US where the technology companies are based, no international web marketing company including Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, can afford to ignore what she says. Let’s not forget, that the European Union is the world’s largest economic grouping with a GDP greater than the US. From the Arctic circle to the Mediterranean and from the Atlantic to the Aegean, the European Union is vast and growing and makes up 7% of the world’s population but 20% of global trade. What power!
Just this morning, the Financial Times reported under the headline of “Europe telecom groups target Google” that European telecoms companies want to change the way that access to the web is charged for, so that organisations such as Google with YouTube.com, Facebook and Apple with their video solutions will have to contribute to the huge cost of delivering video content (actually all content but video is the biggest problem) to consumers. Guess who is involved in this? Correct, it’s Neelie Kroes who is concerned that European telecoms companies are not investing enough to improve on broadband speeds and putting pressure on the telecoms industry. They retort that they can’t justify the investment because they don’t earn revenue from the delivery of additional content. Hence, the quest to extract cash from — mostly — American technology companies.
The Guardian is quite critical of Neelie Kroes and the European Commission’s decisions that cookies must be regulated. In the words of Charles Arthur of the Guardian Technology blog “What is one to make of an organisation which in one week decides that cookies – little text files that sit on your web browser and relate where you’ve gone online (but which you can control quickly and easily via preferences on your machine) must be regulated as though they were an outbreak of Ebola fever, but says there’s no need to impose “net neutrality” duties on telecoms companies?”
The fact is that whatever is decided in Europe is going to affect companies everywhere. Firstly, it is likely that some — if not all — European regulations will be adopted by other countries. It is also likely that large technology businesses will try to find a solution which they can apply worldwide — rather than having different solutions for different continents.
My point is, we should all know more about the work of the European Commission and the thinking of Neelie Kroes! It’s in all our interests — wherever you are in the world.
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