Next week a a law is coming into effect that will change the internet forever and make it much harder to be a tech giant. On November 1, the European Union’s Digital Markets Act comes into effect, triggering a process that should force Amazon, Google and Meta to make their platforms more open and interoperable in 2023. This could bring major changes to what people can do. with their devices and apps, in yet another reminder that Europe has regulated tech companies much more actively than the United States.
“We expect the consequences to be significant,” says Gerard de Graaf, a former EU official who helped pass the DMA earlier this year. Last month, he became director of a new EU office in San Francisco, set up in part to explain the law’s implications to Big Tech companies. De Graaf says they will be forced to open their walled gardens.
“If you have an iPhone, you should be able to download apps not only from the App Store, but also from other app stores or from the Internet,” de Graaf says, in an emerald-green accented conference room at the Irish consulate in San Francisco. , where the EU office is initially located. DMA requires dominant platforms to let in smaller competitors, and could also force Meta’s WhatsApp to receive messages from competing apps like Signal or Telegram, or prevent Amazon, Apple and Google from favoring their own apps and services .
Although the DMA goes into effect next week, technology platforms do not have to comply with it immediately. The EU must first decide which companies are big enough and entrenched enough to be classified among the “gatekeepers” subject to the strictest rules. De Graaf expects a dozen companies to be part of this group, which will be announced in the spring. These guardians will then have six months to comply.
De Graaf predicted a flurry of lawsuits challenging Europe’s new rules for Big Tech, but says he’s in California to help make the Silicon Valley giants aware that the rules have changed. The EU has already imposed heavy fines on Google, Apple and others through antitrust investigations, a mechanism that puts the burden of proof on bureaucrats, he says. Under DMA, the onus is on the business to align. “The key message is that the negotiations are over, we are in a state of compliance,” says de Graaf. “You may not like it, but that’s the way it is.”
Like Europe’s digital privacy law, GDPR, DMA is expected to drive changes in how technology platforms serve people beyond the EU’s 400 million internet users, as certain details of compliance will be more easily implemented globally.
Tech companies will also soon have to wrestle with a sweeping second EU law, the Digital Services Act, which requires risk assessments of certain algorithms and disclosures about automated decision-making, and could force social apps like TikTok to open their data to outside scrutiny. The law is also to be implemented in stages, with the largest online platforms expected to comply by mid-2024. The EU is also considering adopting specific rules for artificial intelligence, which could prohibit certain use cases of the technology.