Margrethe Vestager spent the last five years developing a well-earned reputation as the world’s top tech industry watchdog. From her perch overseeing Europe’s competition rules, she fined Google more than $9 billion for breaking antitrust laws, and forced Apple to pay about $14.5 billion for dodging taxes.
Now she says that work, which made her a hero among tech critics, did not go far enough. The biggest tech companies continue to test the limits of antitrust laws, behave unethically and push back against government intervention, she said.
But she said the public’s growing skepticism about technology has given her an opportunity for a tougher approach.
“In the last five years,” Vestager said in an extended interview, “some of the darker sides of digital technologies have become visible.”
So Vestager, a 51-year-old former Danish lawmaker, is doubling down. She has signed on for a rare second five-year term as the head of the European Commission’s antitrust division, and assumed expanded responsibility over digital policy across the 28-nation bloc.
With the new power, she has outlined an agenda that squarely targets the tech giants. She’s weighing whether to remove some protections that shield large internet platforms from liability for content posted by users. She is also working on policies to make companies pay more taxes in Europe and investigating how the companies use data to box out competitors.
Vestager has pledged to create the world’s first regulations around artificial intelligence and called for giving collective bargaining rights to so-called gig economy workers like Uber drivers. The push comes on top of an investigation into Amazon’s use of data to gain an edge on competitors that had already started, and her look into accusations of unfair business practices by Facebook and Apple.
“She has these accomplishments, but she didn’t get as much as she wanted,” said David Balto, a former lawyer in the Justice Department’s antitrust division whose clients now include large tech companies. “Now she can be more aggressive.”
But Vestager’s agenda amounts to a wish list. Her success will depend on support and collaboration from other European officials who are already grappling with challenges like Britain’s exit from the European Union, the rise of populism and fraying diplomatic relations with the United States.
It will require standing up to relentless resistance from the tech companies, too.
“One of the important things is, of course, to prioritize because otherwise you will be in the process of back and forth for a very, very long time,” Vestager said.
Tough是指不妥協的，相關詞有tough guy（硬漢）、tough cookie（非正式用語，指意志堅強的人）。