Direct messages between large networks and greater access to your data: these are the digital walls that will fall in six months

European regulation is slow, very slow in the eyes of the citizens who wait for it outside the corridors of Brussels. But it ends up arriving. This Wednesday the EU has officially designated which large Internet services will be governed by a series of special rules after the approval of the new Digital Markets Act (DMA). The regulation wants to short-circuit these online giants, which it considers have become key players in the way citizens access the Internet and should be treated as such.


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Further

Brussels has designated a total of 21 platforms that will be affected by the new rules. They belong to six companies: Alphabet, owner of Google and YouTube; Meta, owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp; ByteDance, which is the parent company of TikTok; Apple, which controls the App Store and the Safari browser; Microsoft, with Windows and LinkedIn; and Amazon, which in addition to its store enters through its advertising service, which has gained a lot of weight in recent years. The full list of affected services is at the end of the article.

These companies have six months from this Wednesday to comply with 21 obligations included in the new law, which the EU summarizes in one key word: “interoperability.” The digital platforms they manage will have to tear down much of the boundaries between them that they have built for years to keep their users within their service ecosystems. Brussels accuses them of harming competition and the digital freedom of citizens with these virtual borders.

What does this translate into? One of the most visible consequences for citizens will be that in six months or less it will begin to be possible to send direct messages between the large social networks. In this way, Meta, for example, will have to allow users of other smaller messaging apps to write to WhatsApp users without having to open an account or have the WhatsApp app. Or that the instagramers can send messages to tiktokers without having to change apps.

The standard also seeks to prevent the creation of fenced gardens in the devices. Apple will not be able to prevent iPhone owners from downloading applications from other stores outside the App Store, which will have two main effects: on the one hand, apps that want to be on iPhones will no longer need Apple’s approval to do so. . On the other, they will have alternative routes to the App Store and up to 30% commission charged to apps. Samsung, for its part, will not be able to pre-define which apps are pre-installed on its phones and which are not (or charge for it).

Platforms will also not be able to treat their parent company’s other services more favorably than those of the competition, prevent users from uninstalling any pre-installed apps, or track their activity outside of their platform without explicit consent.

New data flows

With the DMA, Brussels not only hopes to control much more effectively the way in which they treat their users and what they prohibit them from doing. It also wants to prevent its databases from being in its possession, preventing other companies from accessing the information they generate.

Sectors such as banking will benefit from this part of the rule. For the first time they will be able to have access to the data handled by these large technology companies, which has been one of their great demands. These new data flows will have to have the consent of the user to travel on safe highways.

The DMA began its negotiations in 2019 and four years later it began to take its first official steps. It is, together with the new Digital Services Law (DSA), the package of measures with which the EU wants to articulate the European Internet. “We have already started discussing compliance [de la DMA] with companies, who have understood that the rules of the game have changed”, declared the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton.

The law also has pressure measures to force multinationals to comply with it. “If the solution they propose is not good enough, we will not hesitate to take forceful measures,” warned the Frenchman. The fines for skipping the DMA can reach 10% of the global turnover of the company. For repeat offenders, penalties can be up to 20%. In all cases, these maximums amount to billions of euros.

The EU has also provided a special punishment for repeat offenders, in order to avoid situations like those of Meta, which receives fines again and again for violating European data protection but takes years to change its practices. This is one of the biggest fears of large technology companies: the obligation to sell the conflictive part of their business to a third party and separate it from their parent company. In this way, if Alphabet, for example, repeatedly ignores the legislation with the advertising service it manages from Google, it could be forced to transfer it or convert it into a completely independent company.

List of services affected by the new law

Social networks

  • Facebook
  • instagram
  • TikTok
  • LinkedIn

Messenger service

intermediation

  • Google Maps
  • Google Play
  • Google Shopping
  • Amazon store
  • App Store
  • Meta Store

Advertising

Video

Search engines

Browsers

Operating systems

Samsung, which was in the nomination published in July, has finally been dropped from the official list as the EU has deemed that its browser that comes pre-installed on its devices cannot be considered a gateway to the Internet like Chrome or Safari. According to StatCounter, the Korean company’s browser has 4% of the world market share, while Google’s has 64% and Apple’s 25%.

Brussels has also opened a more detailed investigation into four other services that could enter the list. These are Bing and Edge, the Microsoft search engine and browser, as well as the advertising service of this same company. The fourth is iMessage, from Apple. The analysis will last a maximum of five months and will assess the impact on the European market that these services have and whether they should be treated as special Internet access gateways.

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