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Silicon Valley giants outrank many nations, says first 'techplomat'

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06/19/2017 | 12:17pm CET
Denmark's tech ambassador Klynge poses for a picture in Copenhagen

The top firms in California's 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 the first "techplomacy" posting on the U.S. West Coast, Denmark's Casper Klynge will be tasked with building direct ties between his country and the likes of Facebook (>> Facebook), Apple (>> Apple) and Alphabet's Google (>> Alphabet).

"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 was 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 comments cleared for publication late on Friday.

In economic terms, the new partners are comparable.

Denmark's 2016 gross domestic product was 2.06 trillion Danish crowns (242.25 billion pounds), sitting between Facebook's current $437 billion (341.46 billion pounds) market value and the $185 billion of Oracle Corp (>> Oracle Corporation).

With tech 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 organisations using its network to promote their actions," said Klynge, who takes up his new role on Sept 1.

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.

(Editing by Terje Solsvik and John Stonestreet)

By Stine Jacobsen

Stocks treated in this article : Microsoft Corporation, Apple, Facebook, Oracle Corporation, Alphabet
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