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Europe Can’t Land Any Big Punches on Big Tech

November 12, 2019, 2:41 PM UTC

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This past summer, Fortune hosted a heated conversation at the Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. about regulating the tech industry. Opinions ran the gamut from ‘leave the poor behemoths alone’ to ‘regulate the you-know-what out of them.’ Others focused on what was likely to happen next.

Europe is a different matter. Its various regulators have been after Big Tech for years, fining them billions, restricting their actions, and re-writing laws on privacy and data sharing.

Europe’s bite, however, isn’t quite equal to its bark. Fortune’s David Meyer wrote about a resource-constrained regulatory agency in Ireland, a country that is home to the European offices of most of the biggest U.S. tech companies. The agency hasn’t quite gotten around to enforcing Europe’s tough laws. Helen Dixon, Ireland’s data protection commissioner, estimates that by the end of the year, 10,000 complaints will have reached her desk.

The New York Times reports in a comprehensive article that critics of Europe believe Google, Facebook, and their ilk have played a kind of regulatory rope-a-dope to avoid serious punishment. They have used stalling techniques or otherwise managed to contain regulatory actions to specific areas—leaving competitors unprotected from their monopolistic ways as a whole.

The interests of Silicon Valley giants are twofold. Europe is an important market. And American regulators—local, state, and federal—are looking to see what they can learn from Europe’s travails. I’ll hope to learn that, too, at next week’s Fortune Global Forum in Paris, when I interview Dixon and her French and German counterparts, Marie-Laure Denis and Ulrich Kelber. Stay tuned.

Adam Lashinsky

Twitter: @adamlashinsky


This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.


Clean your mouth out with soap. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi had to quickly apologize on Monday after he called Saudi Arabia's murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi "a mistake" and compared it to the accident in which one of his company's self-driving cars killed a pedestrian last year in Arizona. Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund is one of the largest shareholders in Uber.

Big, big, big data. This kind of revelation can't be quickly moved on from: It turns out Google is working with major hospital chain Ascension to use extensive data on millions of patients in an effort to improve care using artificial intelligence. Patients and doctors were not notified, although the practice appears to be consistent with federal medical privacy law, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Hopscotch. He's not even finished with closing the biggest merger of his career, but T-Mobile CEO John Legere is in talks to jump ship and take over WeWork as CEO. It's not as crazy as it sounds. Legere once turned around a failing startup and has strong relationships with WeWork chair Marcelo Claure and majority owner Masayoshi Son.

L.A. story. Sometimes owning just one grocery chain isn't enough. Amazon, which bought Whole Foods for $14 billion in 2017, is opening a whole new chain that will feature less healthy merch. Like Cheetos and Coca Cola. Store #1 opens soon in Los Angeles.

Up, up, and away. Elon Musk's dream of Internet service from space took a leap forward when his SpaceX unit lofted 60 satellites on Monday, doubling the size of its orbital workforce. On the other hand, the Starlink project needs 30,000 satellites eventually, so only 99.6% more to go.

Save it in the cloud. The latest issue of our new newsletter, Eye on A.I., hits today. Subscribe now to get your copy of in-depth takes on the artificial intelligence scene.


Insert your "end of the beginning" metaphor here, because today, November 12, marks the long anticipated arrival of Disney's mega-streaming service, Disney+. As you wade through the dozens of online stories about "how to watch Disney+" and "which devices work with Disney+," here's a different angle to ponder from venture capitalist Matthew Ball and tech exec Alex Kruglov. In a piece for Recode, Ball and Kruglov share a series of insights about the streaming wars, including this advice for Disney:

To be successful, you have to solve a problem. This cannot be a problem you created. A few hardcore fans might chase Jim and Pam across the streaming landscape, but most will just watch something other than The Office. But if you say, “We are the home for all things Marvel,” they’ll happily choose you over sifting through Triple Frontier and The Ridiculous Six to find Thor: Ragnarok. Beware, though, of how they’ll feel when they find out you don’t (yet) have all the Marvel movies.


Even more departures to report from Chronicle, the cybersecurity outfit under Google parent Alphabet. CEO Stephen Gillett has reportedly left for another job at Google and chief technology officer Will Robison will also leave...The global head of programming and content strategy (I tried to make a funny acronym out of that title) at Amazon Music is leaving. Alex Luke, who has also worked at Napster and Apple, is joining SiriusXM as senior vice president of digital content...At Dish Network, which will start its own nationwide wireless service, former Sprint and C-Spire exec Stephen Bye joins as chief commercial officer and former Nokia COO Marc Rouanne will be chief network officer...Harvard Business School dean Nitin Nohria, who helped get the school's HBX online platform going, will step down next June.


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‘Vladmir Putin Could Not Create Better Content.’ Election Security Experts Worry False Claims of Fraud Will Disrupt 2020 Results By Nicole Goodkind

Using A.I., This Chinese Retailer Can Track Shoppers on the Internet and in Its Aisles By Fortune Editors

The ‘Queens of Animation’ Who Paved the Way for Disney’s Princesses By Rachel King

What These 6 Big Earnings-Season Winners and Losers Tell Us About the Economy By Kevin Kelleher

Here Are the TVs and Devices You Can Watch Disney+ On By Chris Morris


In a test of some behavioral economics theory or other, the public library system in Chicago did away with fines for overdue books last month. Happily, the number of missing and overdue books returned more than tripled. Maybe it's a sign that instead of streaming one more episode of online TV, you should plop down with a favorite library book?

Aaron Pressman

On Twitter: @ampressman


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