No-one in France, or at least almost no-one, clocked this particular piece of information, engrossed as we are in the torments of the presidential electoral campaign.
While we were otherwise engaged, Denmark appointed a digital ambassador to GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon).
Denmark is sending an ambassador to a “stateless” private sector with no tax base: GAFA, a parallel world without borders or roots that, unsurprisingly for a private enterprise, follows no other logic than that of profit.
In economic terms, the scale of these enterprises can be compared to that of your average country. If Apple were a state, its profits would ground it firmly within the G20…minus the debt and unemployment!
The idea of thematic ambassadors is not a new one and I have often pondered the reality of their missions, believing a certain number of such posts to in fact be favours done for friends in need of a little excitement…
France actually has a very discreet thematic ambassador in the very same domain: the “special representative of France to international negotiations on the information society and the digital economy”, Mr David Martinon.
So why is the Dane’s latest move worthy of discussion? Because it is the first time a State has delegated a direct ambassador to a private sector.
This might come as a shock to some: as a Danish official recently indicated, “in the years to come we will have more bilateral relations with GAFA than with Greece”.
This appointment should inspire a profound reflection on our vision of the future.
The Future will be digital whether we like it or not. These companies are the heart of our every-day experience, about which they know the most minute details.
Since the recent terrorist attacks and the rise in power of radicalisation on the net, they have assumed an important part in the fight against the scourge of terrorism by adapting their policies to the constraints security measures.
It is well known that service providers are at the heart of the process of removing illicit and violent content from the net and their active cooperation with security services is widely commended.
Algorithms, their trade secret, will become increasingly central to research into how to make the internet more secure and how to control it.
The same can be said for the fight against cybercrime…
Besides purely security related concerns, our attention tends to centre primarily on economic and fiscal aspects.
The chaotic implementation of the “Google tax”, the complications inherent to adapting our fiscal system to new modes of consumption, the difficulty that the average legislator meets with when trying to understand the inner working of multinational groups: all of these factors demand a reconceptualisation of our relationship with these new actors.
In this light, Denmark’s move strikes me as particularly interesting.
Like an updated version of the arms race, it is clear that the digital world will always evolve faster than national and European legislation.
It is also clear that this world will play an increasingly important part in our daily lives. It is about time we formed a relationship based on mutual trust with these giants of the net who, whether we like it or not, govern our lives.
An innovative and inevitable move
It is undoubtedly a turning point for the way in which we should envisage our diplomatic relations.
Taking everything into consideration, however, with the number of states who have either failed or rest without governance, the impotence of the United Nations and its inability to elaborate or protect moribund international law, the snail’s pace of a European political system tied down by excessive regulation, and the shock of Brexit…the pragmatic Danes have chosen to establish a direct link with GAFA, which is like a State within a State.
I do not personally see any renouncement of sovereignty whatsoever, nor do I see disdain for traditional diplomacy. All I see is a common-sense measure that will establish and consolidate relations with the world of the internet’s big players and their cutting-edge technology, players who have our daily lives in the palm of their hand as soon as we open our eyes and start scrolling through our smartphones.