The last couple of days have seen new reports of the largest tech companies battling it out with governmental agencies around the world. While all international businesses have to comply with regulations of the governments of the countries in which they do business, the big tech companies occupy a unique sphere of the market – the gateways to the internet, which is a public utility – and are large enough to flex their power both offensively and defensively. This context has created a situation in which giants such as Google, Facebook, and Apple are regularly stepping into the ring of international relations.
Just this week Google and Mozilla decided to stop supporting sites certified by CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center), the main digital certificating authority in China. Users of two of the three biggest browsers will be stopped with warning messages when trying to access any of these sites – most website based in China – as soon as the move takes effect. Already, the browsers have determined not to recognize any new certificates and all online monetary transactions have been stopped. While both companies have stated that CNNIC is welcome to reapply upon fixing some false certificate issues, this represents a major move against China’s web traffic and internet economy, a growing sector. This is not, however, Google’s only overseas struggle at the moment.
In Europe, there has been a struggle against Google for some time, with the company losing a lawsuit over the “right to be forgotten” last year. Now, the company will have to defend itself against an anti-trust move from the European Commission. Google is used for about 90% of all searches on the European continent, a fact that doesn’t sit well in Brussels, resulting in a recommendation of the European Parliament to break up the company. With Google’s ability to majorly impact foreign web traffic with both certificate recognition and search engine algorithm changes, this is hardly surprising, especially in light of European attitudes towards large American tech firms in general.
All of these companies have big fights ahead in a number of different arenas; some will win and some will lose, but there is no question that the results of these contests will shape the way that businesses and governments will interact in our faster online globalized world.