The Digital Markets Act will force Big Tech platforms to break the walls of their gardens by 2023, according to the new EU Ambassador in Silicon Valley.
A law is in effect that changes the way the internet works forever and make it more difficult to become a tech giant. On November 1st, the EU’s Digital Markets Act comes into force, kicking off the clock on a process that is expected to make it mandatory for Amazon, Google, and Meta to improve their platforms to be more transparent and interoperable by 2023. It could result in significant changes to the things people can use their devices and apps, with a reminder that Europe regulates technology companies more vigorously as compared to the US.
“We anticipate that the consequences will be substantial,” says Gerard de Graaf who is a long-standing EU official who helped to pass the DMA at the beginning of this year. In the last month, he was appointed director of a brand new EU Office situated in San Francisco, established in part to explain the law’s implications on Big Tech companies. De Graaf says they will be forced to tear down their gardens that are enclosed.
If you own an iPhone then you ought to be able to download apps not only through the App Store, but also via other apps stores, or via web sites, de Graaf says in a conference space with emerald-green accents in the Irish consulate in San Francisco, where the office of the EU was initially. The DMA requires the dominant platforms to allow smaller competitors to join and may also force Meta’s WhatsApp to be able to receive messages from rival apps such as Signal or Telegram or stop Amazon, Apple, and Google from using their own applications and services.
While the DMA is set to take effect in the coming week, technology platforms aren’t required to conform immediately. The EU first needs to determine which firms are large and well-established enough to qualify as “gatekeepers” that are subject to the most stringent rules. De Graaf expects that about twelve companies will fall included in the group, and will be revealed at the beginning of the year. The gatekeepers will then be given six months to bring their businesses into compliance.
De Graaf has predicted a surge of lawsuits aimed at contesting the new European rules for Big Tech, but says that he’s currently in California to communicate the Silicon Valley giants that the rules have been changed. The EU had previously issued massive penalties against Google, Apple, and others in antitrust investigations an approach that placed all the responsibility of proof onto bureaucrats De Graaf claims. Under DMA the burden is on the business to conform into line. The main message is that the negotiations are done and we’re now in a compliance situation de Graaf says. You might not like this, but it’s the way things are.
As with the EU’s privacy law GDPR, the DMA is likely to bring about changes to the way tech platforms assist people outside of the 400 million internet users of the EU due to the fact that certain aspects of compliance can be easily implemented worldwide.
Tech companies may also confront the second major EU law called the Digital Services Act, which will require risk assessments for certain algorithms as well as disclosures regarding automated decision making. It also could require social media platforms such as TikTok to make their data available to scrutiny by outside parties. The law is expected to be implemented in phases with the most popular online platforms expected to comply by the mid-2024 timeframe. It is believed that the EU is also looking into the adoption of specific rules on artificial intelligence that could restrict certain use cases of the technology.
De Graaf argues that tougher regulations for tech giants are required not just to safeguard businesses and individuals against unfair business practices but also also to let society enjoy the full benefit of technology. He has expressed his displeasure with the non-binding AI Bill of Rights recently issued from the White House, saying that the absence of a clear regulation could undermine public confidence in technology. If people lose faith to AI as they think that it is discriminatory and results in negative outcomes for the quality of their life, the author says they will shun AI and it won’t ever be a success.
The EU’s new office has opened following recent efforts by the bloc as well as the US to cooperate more in the area of tech policy. De Graaf says both sides are keen to find solutions to the problem of shortages of chips and ways that government authorities can use technology as well as the web.
He’s planning a trip to Sacramento to meet with California state legislators who are, he claims, the pioneers in challenging Big Tech. The lawmakers passed a bill in the month of July that requires strict privacy settings on the default for children as well as a set of rules on how companies handle information they gather on children. It is worth noting that the US Congress have passed small legislation that has impacted the tech industry in recent times with the exception of the $58 billion CHIPS and Science Act in support of the production of semiconductors in July.
Marlena Wisniak, who is the head of work on technology at the civil liberties organization known as the European Center for Not for Profit Law She sees the EU’s presence in the technology industry’s backyard as a new sign that they are committed to shaping technology policy across the globe. She believes de Graaf should use some of the power available to those who depend on Big Tech platforms outside the US and EU that aren’t often included in diplomacy on tech.
Wisniak also hopes that the EU’s digital ambassadors avoid traps that have ruined the plans of a few previous freshmen in Silicon Valley, a place where there are more entrepreneurs, executives and financiers than makers. I would like to see that EU policymakers aren’t enticed by the hype about technology, she says. The tech bro story is true.