Europe, Google, Apple & Cie

Europe, Google, Apple & Cie


In today’s world where every passenger or cargo on the move, every change in the temperature or ground movement can be found translated into computer language, the way one can use data becomes an asset both in political and economic terms. In the field of Big Data, Europe has not realized how much it stands behind others: its dependence on the American superpower is explained by the fact that neither it has an industrial chain adapted to manage such flow of data nor a vision and strategy to contribute to this new cyber world that no European country or individual has realized the scope of it.

Data – i.e. fingerprints left by individuals and their equipment while surfing the Internet – are the new oil of the information society. They are collected mainly by four large U.S. companies: Google, which stores them in its mega-systems, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. They are thus called the GAFA group. They dominate the world and operate the data of 520 million Europeans, without limits. Indeed, Google reaches its highest scores on the Old Continent, with up to 90% market share and even more in Internet search engine. This result in a shortfall and BCG estimated in November 2012 to EUR 1000 billion value generated by Europe’s digital data.

This creates for countries in Europe the same type of dependence on oil wells that it has with the Middle East and yet the Old Continent has no long-term strategy to fight against it.

“Everything is digital data,” explains Stéphane Grumbach, director of research at the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control (INRIA): Man, his/her body, movements, behavior, knowledge, etc… “Everything is meant to also have a existence in the virtual emerging world. ” The cyber world of web 2.0 is currently experiencing a big bang at a very high speed. Moore’s Law was predicting the doubling of storage capacity of computers, now it is also appropriate for data, says the specialist. Here is just an example of this “big data”: every minute, YouTube receives 24 hours of additional images and this will accelerate further. 40 zettabytes (40 trillion gigabytes) of digital data are expected to be produced in 2020, against 0.8 only in 2010.

On the one hand, China is over all a fortress World digital power: it is protected by its ideograms and mostly its great wall firewall, almost impenetrable. The country has not yet expanded its cybernetic tentacles outside its borders. However, China controls 16% of the world’s top 50 sites when U.S. companies manage 72% of them.

On the other hand, people in Europe are struggling to achieve their delay in the battle for power over digital. ” A Society mastering the data reaches a power that is still somewhat suspect and far beyond the sectors of the market economy,” said Stéphane Grumbach, quoting the example he considers most striking: “Google has in its digital memory more information about French people that the Insee (French national Institute of statistics).”

Much of personal data generated by the free use of websites therefore find themselves on foreign systems. In relation to this issue, many aberrations exist, such as where do fall in terms of law personal data collected on Europeans in the U.S.: they are not protected by the laws of the Union, nor those that apply to U.S. residents.

The awareness on this topic is growing though among politics. The E.U. data protection of its citizens has been the subject of new legislative proposals in 2012. But these new rules should not respond to the challenge of such European data stored in the “cloud”, which remains under U.S. control.

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