EU must get more tech savvy in 2014

Monday 23 December 2013 18.48
European regulation could play a key role in the tech world next year
European regulation could play a key role in the tech world next year

Regulation will be key to Europe's role in technology, writes Niall Kitson.

The past 12 months have been busy in the world of tech, making it hard to choose just a few key moments from the many stories from the year.

The short version of 2013 will mention new versions of iOS, Android and the iPhone; ‘stateless’ corporate entities; new consoles; the ongoing NSA surveillance scandal; and Ireland’s growing reputation as a business- and technology-friendly place to operate.

What I’ll be keeping tabs on in 2014 is the role Brussels will play in policing the above.

Already the European Commission has positioned itself as a force for good in its plan kill off roaming charges within the 28 member states are from July, which is sure to make the mobile space more competitive for business users.

How telcos change their pricing structures as a reaction will be interesting to track.

Second on my watch list is the treatment of privacy - a subject the EU has already demonstrated an interest in through its attempts to enshrine the ‘right to be forgotten’ in law.

Given the continued revelations about the US NSA’s gathering metadata on the e-mails and phone calls of its own and international citizens and the harvesting of search data by Google, we will see pressure brought on the US government to disclose its surveillance practices and reveal just how much the NSA knows about its ‘allies’.

Similarly, Google, Facebook, Twitter and any other company that relies on audience data for marketing purposes will find their positions under scrutiny as the concept of ‘safe harbour’ - which assumes companies are acting in a responsible manner when it comes to personal data - gets revised.

I also expect that we’re going to see Europe get more aggressive in fining tech companies for breaching EU law.

Spain and Germany have already nibbled at Google’s profit margins over data protection infringements but the bigger prize is what settlement will be forced out of Google in its antitrust case, which could cost the search giant over a billion euro.

Finally, I’m looking forward to seeing how Apple will be made adopt micro-USB as a universal standard for charging mobile handsets.

The changeover from bespoke chargers to micro-USB has only benefitted the consumer and plans are afoot to make sure everyone is on board by 2015... rather plans are afoot to make sure Apple is on board, as everyone else seems to have already made the move without fanfare.

Having moved from its original charger to one based on its Thunderbolt alternative, Apple will say it has produced its own easily-adopted standard for the rest of the world to take on but it’s hard to see how the Commission could be sold on a move that suits the manufacturer, not the consumer.

Between legal struggles, privacy, data protection, espionage and hardware design the EU will have plenty of chances to prove its worth in 2014. Here’s hoping it doesn’t falter.

See you next year.

Niall Kitson is editor of TechCentral.ie