We are just learning the relatively new and fairly difficult concept known as digital sovereignty. Sovereignty in its classical form means exclusive rule over a given geographic territory and is not easily applicable to the boundless world of the internet.
Digital sovereignty, however – even if states ignored it for a long time – is a very real and momentous concept.
One of the key reasons why this idea is so essential in the age of Big Tech is the plethora of information in digital databases about every single citizen. Who gets access to that data and how is a critical factor for our society.
Secondly, many important political and economic decisions made at the national level for many states are now decided with the aid of information systems, a fact that carries an inherent security risk.
Thirdly, most employees during their daily work generate vast amounts of information which, as we know, is the most valuable resource of our modern age. As a result, it is not a small matter of significant who has access to this data and in what manner.
Finally, these technology multinationals have grown to rival the power of actual states. In many cases, states even side with those tech giants. The United States, for example, is considering retaliatory measures after France slapped taxes on the four tech giants Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
These tech companies are seemingly mainly interested in expanding the range of services they offer and make customers dependent on them, but on a more fundamental level, they are just as interested in gathering as much information about individuals as they can.
These companies have also begun to integrate into medical services, schooling, physical security, and even national security. They now reach into nearly every corner of our lives.
At that point, they may as well establish “virtual states” with citizenship included.
It turns out that – despite its size – Hungary may not be as powerless as one would think. That viewpoint is backed with Hungary’s actions last Friday, with the Economic Competition Office (GVH) slapping a 1.2 billion forint (€3.62 million) fine on Facebook for falsely stating that its services were free, whereas it is actually making money from user data.
That fine may be just a drop in the ocean, but it does indicate that states do have the power to regulate multinational tech firms and may even point a way forward in the fight to hold Big Tech accountable.
Title image: Facebook logo