The European Union has reached an agreement on landmark digital rules to rein in online “gatekeepers” such as Google and Facebook’s parent company, Meta.
EU officials have agreed the wording for the bloc’s Digital Markets Act, part of a long-awaited overhaul of digital regulations with major implications for the global tech market. The act, which still needs other approvals, seeks to prevent the biggest of tech firms from dominating digital markets through the threat of fines or even the possibility of a company breakup.
The regulation would target what the EU calls “gatekeepers” – companies with a market capitalization of at least €75bn ($82bn); at least 45 million monthly users; and a “platform” like an app or social network. That includes all the well know big tech firms like Google, Microsoft, Meta, Amazon, and Apple, but also smaller sites like Booking.com.
The act includes a number of eye-catching measures that could shake up the way big tech companies operate:
Companies would not be allowed to rank their own products or services higher than those of others in online search results or reuse data collected from different services.
A user’s personal data cannot be combined for targeted ads unless “explicit consent” is given.
Messaging services and social media platforms must work with each other to avoid the domination of a few companies that have already established big networks of users. That opens up the possibility, for example, of Telegram or Signal users being able to exchange messages with WhatsApp users.
Violations could be punished with large fines: up to 10 percent of a company’s annual income. For a repeat offence, a fine of up to 20 percent of its worldwide turnover may be imposed. That could work out to billions of dollars for wealthy Silicon Valley companies.