August 30th 2016 is a date that Apple will not forget. And Margrethe Vestager is a name that that will forever be remembered by the tech giant.While the date and the name won’t mean much to most of us, as the Head of the European Commission’s Competition department, Margrethe Vestager was instrumental in handing Apple a massive $14.5bn bill for unpaid back taxes in the Republic of Ireland. That was three years ago, but Vestager is just getting started. According to the New York Times
“Ms. Vestager, a 51-year-old former Danish lawmaker, is doubling down. She has signed on for a rare second five-year term as the head of the European Commission’s antitrust division, and assumed expanded responsibility over digital policy across the 28-nation bloc.
With the new power, she has outlined an agenda that squarely targets the tech giants. She’s weighing whether to remove some protections that shield large internet platforms from liability for content posted by users. She is also working on policies to make companies pay more taxes in Europe and investigating how the companies use data to box out competitors.”
“Some of these platforms, they have the role both as player and referee, and how can that be fair?” Vestager is quoted as saying. “You would never accept a football match where the one team was also being the referee”. It’s a hard point to argue with.
The impact of her mission to bring big tech to heel hasn’t only caused irritation among those in the industry. Donald Trump recently commented that Vestager: “hates the United States, perhaps worse than any person I’ve ever met.” Not surprisingly, Boris Johnson has echoed Trump’s rhetoric in describing Vestager as a, “crop-haired … left-wing” character, “straight out of that Scandi-noir serial Borgen.”
Vestager has though, also received plenty of praise among those who believe that she’s performing a valuable service.