EU digital affairs chief: Smart devices of big tech companies need EU regulation

Margrethe Vestager, the European Union's digital affairs chief, said today that if the antitrust investigation does not solve some "systemic" problems existing in large technology companies, Such as data collection and user lock-in, their smart devices may need to be regulated by EU regulations. Regulators are concerned about the so-called "internet of things" following the conclusion of a sweeping antitrust probe into voice assistants such as Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri, Vestager said in a speech in Prague today.

A previous EU report listed potential problems, including how devices work together, how data is collected, and how the practices of some companies "lock-up" users to their products. As early as July 2020, the European Commission announced that it will launch an antitrust investigation into the "Internet of Things" (IoT) market, and voice assistants such as Google Assistant, Apple Siri, and Amazon Alexa will be the object of the investigation.

The EU said at the time that the sweeping antitrust probe was designed to assess how Silicon Valley giants are using data to firmly control a growing market. And regulators have seen signs that tech giants may restrict access to certain data or make products that don't work well with other companies products.

Vestager said today: “If we see something systemic, it’s everywhere. Then it’s not enough to just find it in one place, fine it and punish it. So we also need to do More things. We need regulation." Vestager also said the EU's antitrust investigations into Facebook parent Meta and Google are in a relatively early stage, especially compared to the probes against Apple and Amazon.

The EU is currently in the final stages of rolling out broader new regulations, namely the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act, to curb the influence of big tech companies, which could also affect voice assistants. Vestager said today: “The goal of the Digital Markets Act is very simple: to keep markets open and provide a competitive market for every business. To do this, stop ‘gatekeepers’ from abusing their huge market Influence."

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