Exclusive: ProtonMail creator says attempts to rein in Big Tech ‘only tackle 5% of the problem’

The founder of Proton, the company behind ProtonMail and ProtonVPNcriticized the EU’s latest attempts to curb the power of Big Tech.

In an exclusive interview with Tech Radar ProAndy Yen described the Digital Markets Bill (DMA) as “a huge benefit to society, but also a missed opportunity”.

“The EU hasn’t gone far enough, and that’s a big problem, because it’s once-in-a-generation legislation,” he said.

The power of default

The DMA is a piece of legislation that should soon be enshrined in EU law and aims to limit the power of so-called “guardians of technology” – such as Apple, Meta and Google – who are accused of utilize their market position and wealth of resources. to oust smaller competitors.

The vise grip held by these companies across a range of platforms and product types is said to limit the potential of companies like Proton, which offer privacy-centric solutions. E-mail, vpn, online storage and schedule services, to drive large volumes of users away from US tech giants.

According to Yen, although the DMA has a positive effect on the availability of alternative services, the EU made a crucial mistake by not addressing the ability of platform operators to “self-prefer” their own services.

In reality, regardless of the breadth of alternatives available, the vast majority of users will never stray far from the default. In effect, this means that companies competing in the same categories as the biggest tech companies are unlikely to make any real breakthroughs, no matter how good their services are.

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“If antitrust regulation doesn’t address failures, it’s only addressing 5% of the problem. It really is the elephant in the room,” Yen told us.

“[On Android], email is the thing that ties the entire Google ecosystem together, but DMA doesn’t prohibit Google from self-preferring for Gmail. If you don’t tackle this coin, you don’t break the monopoly.

A new model for regulators

A significant part of the problem is that regulators lack the level of technical expertise needed to unravel the complexity of the issues at hand, Yen added. And he also thinks regulators need to rethink the process for setting new legislation, depending on how fast the tech industry is growing.

“The way legislation worked was you made giant historical legislation and then left it alone for a century. But this old model is not compatible with today’s world, which is changing so quickly.

“We need policymakers to think differently, with policies updated every one or two years rather than once in a generation. An iterative and therefore more agile approach is what is needed.

Asked about the feasibility of this type of approach, given the number of moving parts and the need for every piece of legislation to be properly ratified, Yen suggested it was important to keep the bigger picture in mind.

“It shouldn’t be about feasibility, it should be about what’s needed. Otherwise, your economy will be dominated by a handful of companies,” he said. “We have the duty and the obligation to legislate correctly.”

A transcript of TechRadar Pro’s full conversation with Andy Yen will be released in the coming weeks.

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