Margrethe Vestager on Data Ownership, Moderation, and Access

Margrethe Vestager of the European Commission shares insights on the EU’s digital landscape, especially when it comes to digital content and data.


Air Date: December 9, 2021

Moderator: Kayla Tausche, Senior White House Correspondent, CNBC

Featured Guests: Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, European Commission

The European Union has been at the forefront of advancing the digital landscape, and in recent years, its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has set an example for other data protection policies. This includes U.S. policies like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). As the digital landscape continues to evolve, the EU will also continue to prioritize data regulation.

During the second day of the 2021 Transatlantic Business Works Summit, Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president for Europe Fit for the Digital Age at the European Commission, discussed the European Union’s approach to data throughout the digital age and its aspirations for the future. Here are some of Vestager’s key insights on regulating data and content, and how transatlantic cooperation can help.

People Should Have Ownership of Their Personal Data

Vestager believes everyone should be in control of the personal data they generate online. She has been personally working on these digital principles with the EU and adapting them with a proposed United States A.I. Bill of Rights so people have more equity over their own data.

“Everyone should be able to express themselves openly in the online environment, without fear of being censored or intimidated,” said Vestager. “Everyone should have a chance of obtaining the digital skills needed to fully participate in our increasingly digitized world.”

This, she said, is essential for artificial intelligence to be used properly and effectively in the modern digital landscape.

“For AI to thrive, we need massive amounts of data,” Vestager explained. “And for people to trust the technology, they must be in control of their personal data.”

Content Needs to Be Moderated to Protect Freedom and Trust

Vestager noted that the dangers posed by algorithmic amplification online have been clear for some time now. She was clear to differentiate content moderation from censorship in the context of the EU’s new Digital Services Act. This legislation is designed to keep consumers safe from dangerous and illegal products and points of view while protecting their rights and freedom of speech.

“We are not regulating content — that is not our mission,” said Vestager. “What we want to recognize is the way in which digital companies deal with content. We want greater transparency and redress for individual users whose content is removed. And we want greater accountability of large platforms to society at large, where their activity has an impact on democratic debate or an impact on mental health.”

The U.S. and EU Need to Remove Digital Gatekeepers in the Digital Economy

Cooperation between the EU and the United States could create regulation that would spur innovation and growth instead of stalling it, said Vestager. To that end, she advocates for removing gatekeepers in the digital economy in both areas, as doing so would create greater access for small businesses to grow.

“If you depend on a gatekeeper to get to your potential customers, it can be difficult to attract investors for innovation,” said Vestager. “Because it's not your ideas, it's not your work ethic, it's not your business model that you invest in. It's basically access to the market, whether you have that or not.”

“As we see it, if we can open those gates, making sure that the lock is open and contestable, that is driving investment in innovation for many more businesses than what we see today,” she added.