EMEA asks tech for some space
In June of 2017, the European Union slapped a record-breaking fine of €2.42bn on Google for violating anti-trust law and promoting its own price comparison service, leading critics to accuse the EU of bias against US firms . This was one of multiple fines foisted upon tech companies by the EU within the past decade, which previously included a €13bn fine on Apple, a €1.2bn fine on Microsoft, and a €1.1bn fine on Intel for various antitrust and collusion allegations.
While high tech’s influence and impact on other industries have been growing significantly in recent decades, creating value and optimizing the lives of millions, it has also experienced increasing resistance and withdrawal from certain populations as a result of growing isolationist tensions. As noted in the Wall Street Journal, “globalization is now showing signs of retreat”, and this phenomenon is experienced especially prominently by tech in EMEA .
Isolationist political movements on international trade policies should be of massive concern (and already are) to Google. This growing mistrust of high tech and Google in particular will cause forced product changes to avoid additional fines, launches of less effective versions of new digital products within EMEA, and as a result will massively reduce the supply and flow of customer search data that is core to Google’s profitability.
What Google is doing now
To address this growing concern, Google’s management made massive changes to their product in Europe, launched a brand-love-building marketing campaign, and continued to remove content requested through their “right to be forgotten” process . After taking a few steps forward, Google has taken a few steps back in an attempt to regain the trust it has lost within the region.
In the medium term, Google is focusing efforts on cooperating with new European regulation going into effect in the future. In particular, the company is working to support the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), whose primary objective lies in in “unifying data protection rules across Europe, strengthening the rights of EU citizens and placing new obligations on all organisations that offer goods and services online” . This is an effort to present a joint front with European governmental bodies and mollify EU citizen fears about consumer control over their data and security. The goal is to continue providing the world’s information in an organized way while driving personalized search and ad results using data minded from consumers – but only as much as each person is willing to provide. It has yet to be seen how effective this will be, as European culture has traditionally been more resistant to the large-scale data scraping that Americans have come to be more tolerant of in exchange for free services. Google is heavily dependent on this continuous data flow from consumers, so their primary goal in Europe must be for users to continue to use their services. This can only be achieved through regaining trust.
Google has also dedicated resources to encourage digital literacy in Europe . This is an effort to fill the digital skills gap and to increase the population’s understanding of technology. An additional benefit to this program will benefit Google in that it will also build brand trust.
Other steps I recommend Google’s management takes on to address this concern in the short and medium term are to:
- Focus efforts on gaining trust in England in particular
After Brexit, England is in the process of exiting the European Union and continues to be one of the highest revenue-driving countries in the region. Google should tread this transition properly and continue to be a partner to both England and the EU.
- Deep-dive into the European tech mindset is when it comes to technology
The EU mindset, when it comes to technology, is clearly starkly different from that of the American mindset, and even more so from the Asian mindset. Only through understanding what makes this particular segment tick will Google be able to create and message the right products to this incredibly important community.
After conducting this research around the isolationist megatrend’s impact on high tech, two open questions arise:
- What are the considerations Google should be taking into account when messaging new, highly value-add products that require marginal consumer data to increase efficacy?
- What are other actions Google should take or messages they should share to help users feel safe using their products while not inundating them with unnecessary information?
1Boffey, Daniel, ”Google appeals against EU’s €2.4bn fine over search engine results,” The Guardian. September 11, 2017, [https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/11/google-appeals-eu-fine-search-engine-results-shopping-service], accessed November 2017.
2 Warsh, Kevin; Davis, Scott. “The Retreat of Globalization”, The Wall Street Journal Asia; Hong Kong. 16 Oct 2012.
3Scott, Mark. “Europe Tried to Rein In Google. It Backfired.” New York Times. April 18th, 2016, [https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/19/technology/google-europe-privacy-watchdog.html], accessed November 2017.
4Malcolm, William. “Getting ready for Europe’s new data protection rules”. The Keyword. August 8, 2017, [https://www.blog.google/topics/google-europe/gdpr-europe-data-protection-rules/], accessed November 2017.
5Brittin, Matt. “Funding 75,000 Udacity scholarships to bridge the digital skills gap”. The Keyword. September 5, 2017, [https://www.blog.google/topics/google-europe/funding-udacity-scholarships-digital-skills/], accessed November 2017.