OWe hear and we read that the Meta company would threaten Europe with depriving it of some of its tools. The reason given? The impossibility for the company to transfer certain data to the American continent in view of what its national security agency could do with it in contradiction with European regulations. Scientific necessity, commercial obligation or simple intimidation, Meta’s reaction can be likened to the whim of a spoiled child with privileges without borders. Paradoxically, by punishing Europe, Meta risks weakening itself like the consequences of a boycott on the part of European users themselves. Because in reality, we users are their Achilles’ heel and not the other way around.
Since 2018, European regulations on personal data have required companies that collect data on the Old Continent to comply with them, even if this data is stored on the other side of the world. In other words, the place of collection takes precedence over the place of storage of this information, it is a revolution in the global data market. But legislative tensions can exist between nations with occasionally contradictory or incoherent agreements and laws. This would be the case of the invalidation of the European Union-United States Privacy Shield – which regulated the transfer of European data – initially put in place in 2016 and which, according to Meta, would pose commercial problems.
Let’s try to understand why a company like Meta wants to transfer European data to its American servers. First of all, there are technical issues in the development of algorithms that can benefit from a finer knowledge of European users. To this, we can answer that a development in two stages, one of which on European territory on algorithms pre-trained in the country of Uncle Sam, is possible. Then comes the statistical analysis of the monitoring of algorithms, or tools in use via the famous Google Analytics. Here again, this apparent obstacle is in reality only a small stone to be circumvented by carrying out all the analyzes in Europe and by associating, if necessary, the analyzes coming from the American servers. Finally, and this is certainly the main reason, this data is a gigantic lever of economic power for Meta which fuels its revenue model. Geographical dilution is therefore not ideal. There are surely other reasons, but sulking like a teenager in crisis is not the solution.
A challenge as childish as it is pointless
For Meta’s threat to Europe – hard to believe – if carried out, is in fact a grave mistake – with political implications not discussed here. Suppose the company Meta decides to separate from Europe, the indirect consequences are in practice painful for the company. Loss of the advertising markets of financially powerful European clients, loss of attraction for scientific and technical talents from the Old Continent – we recall that Meta will create 10,000 jobs in Europe for the construction of a metaverse – or even increase in reputational risk, Meta is not immune to a chain reaction.
It is time for childish attitudes of unnecessary defiance to give way to reasoned discussion. By emphasizing each other’s strengths instead of pressing with a certain perversity on the weaknesses of others, which only reveals an unbearable dominant position. There is no determinism in all this.