Ireland is policing big tech: “play by our rules”

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| The European | 1st November 2018
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The European Union has adopted a strict stance on protecting consumer data. It is monitoring the business practices of tech companies to check if they are violating the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the European regulation which governs data privacy.

The big tech companies violate the rules laid down in GDPR. The stiff penalties imposed by the EU watchdogs have been successful in containing the malpractices of big tech companies. However, the temptation of using consumer data for corporate benefits is too high.

Tech Companies and Dublin (The Republic of Ireland)

Dublin, the capital city of The Republic of Ireland is the Mecca of tech companies. Google, Facebook, PayPal, Microsoft, eBay and LinkedIn are some of the big names which operate their European businesses from Dublin. In fact, the area around Grand Canal Dock of Dublin, where most tech companies are located, is named as “Silicon Docks”. This name represents Dublin’s ties with the Silicon Valley of the USA.

Dublin as a Tech Hub

The first thought which comes to mind when thinking about why the tech companies have chosen Dublin is that Ireland has low corporate tax rates. To a certain extent, this is true. However, Cyprus and Estonia also rank amongst the top destinations with low corporate tax rates. In fact, Estonia ranks on top for “ease of doing business”.

The business potential of Dublin can be understood by reading the following facts and figures (stated on “Dublin Chamber” website).

Dublin is home to:

• 9 of the top 10 global ICT companies
• 50 percent of the world’s top banks
• 250 global financial institutions
• 10 of the world’s top 20 insurance companies
• 9 of the world’s top 10 pharmaceutical companies
• 17 of the world’s top 25 medium tech companies

Dublin – Financial Times (2016) European Business Rankings:

Rank (2): Most business-friendly city

Rank (3): Most attractive city for Foreign Direct Investment.

IDA Ireland is the agency responsible for the attraction and retention of inward FDI into Ireland. IDA encourages and supports tech and innovation.

Rank (3): Economic Potential

Dublin – Population: 1,345,402

Educational Institutes: Dublin has 3 universities, 4 institutes of technology, 3 national educational institutions, 10 associated colleges and colleges of education. Besides these institutes, there are many private colleges.

Young and talented workforce: Over a third of Dublin’s population has a higher level of education. 42 percent of the people holding a PHD in Ireland live in Dublin.

Dublin boasts state-of-the-art information technology infrastructure and high internet connectivity speeds.

For the above reasons, Dublin is rightly dubbed as “Tech Hub of Europe”.

Brexit and “The Republic of Ireland”

The Republic of Ireland is an EU member country. It should not be confused with Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom. Dublin, the capital city of The Republic of Ireland will gain from Brexit. Banks, financial institutions along with other different businesses are already shifting to Dublin.

Latest News

CNBC (24 October 2018) reports:

“Dale Sunderland, Deputy Commissioner of Ireland’s Data Protection Commission has a clear message for companies that want to do business in Europe: play by our data privacy rules”.

Sunderland says:

“What the EU says with GDPR is if you wish to provide services to people within the European Union, here is the rule book by which you must play, so I think that’s quite fair”.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission – Ongoing Investigations

Facebook

The Irish Data Protection Commission is investigating Facebook over a security breach (September 2018) that exposed the data of 29 million users, including 3 million in Europe.

Commenting on this investigation, Sunderland said:

“Over the coming months we will conclude our investigation into that matter and we will provide a very fair and thorough assessment of the facts”.

Twitter is also being investigated “over claims the company failed to provide a user with requested personal data”.

For Twitter’s investigation, Sunderland said:

“It’s a very important issue for our office that we will thoroughly and fairly assess and investigate”.

Fines for violating GDPR

Companies that fail to comply with GDPR can face fines of up to 4 percent of global annual revenues or 20 Million Euros, whichever is higher. (For Facebook, it might reach US $1.63 billion)

Are Tech companies welcoming GDPR?

The EU regulators will praise their own initiative. However, if foreign big tech executives praise GDPR then only one can say GDPR has set the bar high for protecting consumer data from being hijacked by tech companies.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has praised Europe’s GDPR. He also has called for comprehensive Federal Data Privacy Regulation in the USA.

A delicate situation for The Republic of Ireland

Dublin is playing with a double-edged sword. If it comes down too hard on the tech companies, then it might risk losing new investment. If it goes soft, then its brethren from the EU bloc will not be happy.

Brexit will create new economic opportunities for The Republic of Ireland. The country will have to walk a fine line to keep the existing tech businesses and welcome new FDI all the while monitoring non-compliance of GDPR by tech companies.

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