New EU regulations aim to address power of US big tech monopolies

The European Union has drafted rules that could result in profound changes to big tech’s hold on power in Europe, according to a report today.

Under the “Digital Services Act,” companies such as Google LLC, Facebook Inc., Apple Inc. and Inc. might have to start sharing data they’ve collected on Europeans with EU companies. Simply out, companies won’t be allowed to harvest any data if they don’t share it with their rivals.

Last month, Facebook seemed to threaten to pull out of the EU after an investigation revealed that the company’s data collection practices didn’t provide enough protection to users in the EU. The company soon backtracked on leaving Europe, but the issue of data collection is yet to be resolved.

Although the matter today isn’t explicitly a privacy issue, according to documents seen by Reuters, the European Commission is worried about the power of U.S. big tech and the fact that so many European companies rely on it. Historically antitrust cases have taken a long time to come to a close and the end result hasn’t been more competition.

On top of the requirement to share data, the rules say the “Gatekeepers” should allow phone users to uninstall the apps they don’t want. “Gatekeepers shall not pre-install exclusively their own applications nor require from any third-party operating system developers or hardware manufacturers to pre-install exclusively gatekeepers’ own application,” said the paper.

Another part of the document said that companies “shall not provide preferential display in online search engines or online intermediation services for their own services.” Yet another part explains that under the new rules no company can “prevent hardware manufacturers from providing their customers and business users with a choice of options for applications/services to be used on/accessed via the hardware.”

Companies that have advertising services such as Google and Facebook will be asked to audit and submit their advertising metrics every year, and at the same time they’ll be asked to give a yearly rundown of their consumer profiling practices.

In all, the new rules, expected to go into effect in December, can be explained this way: You can’t have your cake and eat it, and Europe wants a slice.

Photo: David Stewart/Flickr

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