Silicon Valley giants outrank many nations, says technology ambassador

The top firms in Silicon Valley carry more weight on the global stage than many countries, which makes building diplomatic relations with them increasingly important, the world’s first national technology ambassador said. Chosen to fill what his country’s foreign ministry has dubbed a “techplomacy” posting on the US West Coast, Denmark’s Casper Klynge will be tasked with building direct ties between his country and the likes of Facebook, Apple and Alphabet’s Google.

“We are to continue doing traditional diplomacy with countries and organisations, but we also have to start looking into what relation you can have with these big tech companies,” Klynge told Reuters in an interview. The aim is to help Denmark understand the impact of rapid changes in digital technology while promoting the country’s interests and values – setting up a channel of communication that would also benefit the companies. “If you look at these companies’ involvement and significance for you and me, many of them have a much greater degree of influence than most nations,” he said.

In economic terms, the new partners are comparable. Denmark’s 2016 gross domestic product was 2.06 trillion Danish crowns ($310bn), sitting between Facebook’s current $437bn market value and the $185bn of Oracle. With technology companies under growing pressure to share encrypted information to prevent terrorism, Klynge also identified the ability of radical individuals or groups to exploit online platforms as a key issue.

“We saw what happened after the terror acts in London when Facebook came forward and said they are ready to discuss how we prevent terror organizations using its network to promote their actions,” said Klynge, who takes up his new role in  September. In May, Facebook was fined 150,000 euros ($166,000) by France’s data protection watchdog for failing to prevent users’ data being accessed by advertisers. “If you look at what impacts us in our daily lives and how much data they can pull on all of us… (the firms) are truly influential players,” Klynge said.

Technological diplomacy is one of Denmark’s five foreign policy priorities alongside national security; Brexit; the Arctic region; and migration, instability and terrorism.