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European Digital Markets Act requires interoperability between competing services and protocols

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The annual revenues of many tech giants exceed the GDP of most countries. In terms of resources and global influence, large technology companies are effectively major global powers, seemingly operating outside or above national jurisdictions and concerns. 

There is no right of recourse, other than not to use many services, which can make life extremely difficult for the individual.

However, this situation is about to change, at least in the European Union. The change is expected with a new European law that went into effect on November 1: the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

This law aims to break the closed nature of many common digital applications and open carefully protected proprietary services and protocols to competition and interoperability.

The most cited example is the inability of iOS users to load and use apps from any source other than the Apple App Store. Until now, loading third-party apps has been generally prohibited in all versions of iOS. After the Digital Markets Act goes into effect, EU residents should, by law, be able to download compiled iOS app files, load them and install them on their iPhone or iPad without any operating system components getting in the way.

However, the November 1 date is unlikely to change things overnight. This is because the bureaucracy is slow and the DMA measures only affect large companies, so the EU has yet to decide how to define « large companies. » 

Although the EU acts slowly, when it does act, it does so effectively. In the past, antitrust investigations have forced Apple to pay taxes on sales in the EU, forced Microsoft to stop promoting its Internet Explorer browser at the expense of its competitors’ browsers, and recently backed French regulators who are forcing Google to pay French news site owners.

In addition, a second European law is waiting in the wings, the Digital Services Act (DSA). This law aims to put into practice the principle that what is illegal offline is illegal online.

It sets out a set of rules to make digital platforms responsible and to fight against the distribution of illegal or harmful content or illegal products: racist attacks, child pornography, disinformation, sale of drugs or counterfeit goods. This legislation is to succeed the so-called e-commerce directive of June 8, 2000, which has become outdated.

This second tranche of legislation will thus require the establishment of a whole new branch of the bureaucracy with many data experts on site. The European Centre for Algorithmic Transparency will act as an arbiter between big business and national digital rights bodies, generally overseeing the effects of big tech on the European Union.

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