Amid the ongoing debate about the importance of digital privacy and who controls and uses our personal data for various purposes, the EU continues to lead the way with the most advanced regulation in the industry. Some of them have been extremely beneficial, while others have become a hindrance in many ways. But right now, European officials are clearly implementing the most significant changes in the broader digital privacy space.
And it looks like he’s about to force a move once again.
Today the European Union have reached a tentative agreement on the new “Digital Markets Act”, which, among various elements, will seek to impose restrictions on how user data can be shared, while also aiming to dilute the dominance of the big technological players by imposing more open access.
As Politico explains:
“New rules for so-called “access control platforms,” derived from years of antitrust enforcement in the digital economy, include restrictions on combining personal data from different sources, mandates to allow users to install apps from third-party platforms, bans on bundling services, and a ban on self-preference practices.
Apple, in particular, has come under intense scrutiny on the latter point, with evidence suggesting that its recent ATT update, which prompts users to sign up for app data tracking, eventually benefit Apple’s own advertising products, as it is now able to collect more user data than those using its platform.
On top of that, the Digital Markets Act would also impose new interoperability requirements for messaging platforms, meaning you would theoretically be able to freely share messages between different messaging platforms.
“Parliament also succeeded in convincing the Council of interoperability requirements for messaging services, which means that devices such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or iMessage will have to open and interact with smaller messaging platforms. For group chats, this requirement will be rolled out over a four-year period.
This presents a range of potential implications – for privacy, digital advertising, awareness, etc.
The actual process to achieve this would take time, but it could lead to a big change in the messaging landscape, apart from the wider implications.
A key part of the proposal also aims to eliminate what the EU calls “lethal acquisitions”:
“The Commission could prohibit gatekeepers from making acquisitions in areas covered by this Regulation, such as digital or the use of data-related sectors, such as games, research institutes, consumer, fitness equipment, health tracking financial services, and for a limited period of time when necessary and proportionate to unduly repair harm caused by repeated infringements or to prevent further damage to contestability and the fairness of the internal market.
Meta has been accused of using this as a strategy to quash opposition, with its acquisitions of WhatsApp, Instagram and even GIF maker GIPHY still under scrutiny in some regions.
It should also be noted that the scope of the legislation is quite specific, targeting large players:
“To qualify as a ‘gatekeeper’, companies would also need to provide a central platform service in at least three EU countries and have at least 45 million monthly end-users, as well as more than 10 000 professional users. A list of indicators to be used by central platform service providers to measure monthly end users and annual business users should be provided in an annex to the proposed regulation.”
Very few platforms will ever reach this scale, but for those already operating at these numbers, it could mean big changes are coming, possibly the biggest shake-up since GDPR was implemented in 2018.
Penalties for breaching the new rules could reach up to 10% of a company’s annual global turnover, and even higher for repeated breaches.
It is a large-scale bill, which still faces potential challenges. But it cleared the first major hurdle – and while these updates would technically only apply to EU citizens, if passed, there will be implementations for all platforms in all regions.
We will keep you informed of any progress.