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EU’s Leading Tech Regulator Eyerolls Security Concerns During U.S. Antitrust Apology Tour

European imperialism is alive and well. They’re sending their bureaucrats to evangelize the false promises of government regulation and central planning. Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s high priestess of red tape, addressed a skeptical crowd this week at the American Enterprise Institute. Her goal was to convince a room full of the most unabashedly pro-market academics and advocates on the planet that the European approach to competition and technology regulation is the right one. She left with few converts.

Vestager based much of her philosophical arguments on two real-world tech case studies: AI and app stores. She alleged that government regulation is both necessary and preferable because government intervention promotes public trust, which in turn promotes more widespread adoption of those technologies. While doing so, Vestager made little mention that what could hamper AI development and adoption the most is if the government itself makes development prohibitively complicated or expensive and then fear mongers to the public about the potential risks. 

She received necessary but fair pushback from her host, AEI senior fellow Stan Veuger. He made clear that, from an American perspective, much of Europe’s competition enforcement actions can be seen as “barely concealed, anti-American protectionism.” She retorted that contrary to when she first began her crusade, antitech sentiment in the U.S. now largely mirrors what can be found across the pond. Vestager made little note of the intense public and congressional scrutiny her counterpart at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Lina Khan, has faced. She also failed to mention how many of the highest profile tech antitrust cases have ended in failure. 

Vestager then pivoted from AI and focused on a particular fixation of European regulatory ire: app stores. She falsely intimated that all app developers in the Apple ecosystem have to pay a 30% fee. This has been debunked so many times it has become cliche. She also suggested that consumers don’t have a legitimate choice between Apple and Android systems because the former is a luxury product while the other is not. Even Lina Khan isn’t this creative with her imaginary market definitions!

All the app store obfuscation prompted a question from AEI nonresident senior fellow Shane Tews. Tews wanted to know how Europe might contend with the inherent tension in their tech legislation between security and privacy. In essence, she wanted clarification on what a company is supposed to do when the mandates the EU has created for privacy necessarily require weakened device security. This was the first moment where the polished politician facade slipped and gave way to the indignant idealogue. Vestager seemed genuinely bothered by the question and rejected outright that there were any security risks inherent in requiring app stores to carry apps with less vetting from the platforms. She went so far as to claim that even should major security risks or negative outcomes arise, the app stores would be on their own to fix them, stating: “this is not about protecting security for consumers.” Again, what Vestager fails to comprehend and what Tews was trying to help her realize: that the EU is the entity responsible for the security concerns. 

What was on display during this talk was a bureaucrat completely and utterly dedicated to the mission of government central planning. A top down, mother-may-I approach is deeply ingrained in her political psyche. The key takeaway for American spectators should be less on the unforced regulatory errors happening everyday in Europe but how some in our own government are trying to import those errors stateside. You cannot separate the wretched policy from the abysmal philosophy. To buy into European competition and digital regulatory regimes is to buy into the belief that the government should control the fundamental building blocks of economic life. Vestager’s faith is one that imagines near limitless authority and power for the state. Deus ex kratos. Americans should reject this and renew their faith in the benefits of the free market.