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European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager addresses a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, on July 18, 2019.

Yves Herman/Reuters

The European Union may impose rules to ensure companies that collect data do not misuse it, Europe’s antitrust chief said on Friday, signalling how she could use her expanded powers to rein in U.S. tech firms like Facebook and Google.

The comments by Margrethe Vestager, appointed to serve another five years as European competition commissioner with new regulatory powers, suggests she may introduce rules to specifically cover tech companies and their use of data.

Until now, fines have been handed out on a case-by-case basis based on regulations that are not specific to the sector.

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Under Ms. Vestager, fines totalling about /////EURO SYMBOL////// 10-billion ($14.7-billion) have been handed down to Google and Qualcomm after court rulings determined they had thwarted rivals.

“If we want to define the market, to set out what’s acceptable and what isn’t, then what we need is not more competition enforcement. We need regulation,” she told a conference in Copenhagen.

“So we may also need broader rules to make sure that the way companies collect and use data doesn’t harm the fundamental values of our society,” Ms. Vestager said without giving details.

She said the bloc’s data protection rules, adopted last year, gave Europeans control over personal data but did not help in instances when problems arose from companies misusing data to draw conclusions about individuals or to undermine democracy.

Tech giants, once seen as engines of economic growth and a source of innovation, have come under fire on both sides of the Atlantic for allegedly misusing their power and for failing to protect their users’ privacy.

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