EU tells big companies to make it easier to get rid of pre-installed software or pay up

Shot of a chip on a blue circuit board
(Image credit: Getty, Tatyana Aksenova / EyeEm)

The EU has had enough of the "Wild West" currently enjoyed by online companies, including those pesky social media types, and so has introduced a number of new rules that they will need to adhere to. Two new acts have been introduced to address the social and economic effects of the tech industry, the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA). 

The general ethos of these new acts is "What is illegal offline, should be illegal online." It plans to do this by setting clear obligations for digital service providers and large online platforms that act as 'gatekeepers.' That latter one covers a lot of the big social media and search platforms, so it's going to make for some interesting times ahead when they are forced to allow third parties to inter-operate with their own services. Exchanging messages across apps for instance.

The Digital Services Act sets four main obligations:

  • New measures to counter illegal content online and obligations for platforms to react quickly
  • Strengthened traceability and checks on traders in online marketplaces to ensure products and services are safe 
  • Increased transparency and accountability of platforms
  • Bans on misleading practices and certain types of targeted advertising 

These all seem pretty straightforward. There are tighter regulations for the bigger services, i.e. those with over 45 million monthly users:

"These platforms will also have to provide users with the choice to not receive recommendations based on profiling. They will also have to facilitate access to their data and algorithms to authorities and vetted researchers."

The Digital Markets Act is more focused on these so-called 'gatekeepers' and attempts to break up some of the anti-competitive practices that have become common. 

  • Allow third parties to inter-operate with their own services 
  • Allow business users to access the data they generate 

Gatekeepers can no longer:

  • Rank their own services or products more favourably (self-preferencing) than other third parties on their platforms 
  • Prevent users from easily un-installing any pre-loaded software or apps, or using third-party applications and app stores
  • Process users’ personal data for targeted advertising, unless consent is explicitly granted 

Ensuring that users can uninstall pre-loaded software and apps is something we absolutely welcome. Far too often you get a phone or other device preloaded with bloatware that you simply cannot get rid of. Well not without jailbreaking it. Will this affect motherboards, laptops, and the like? We'll have to wait and see. 

And if they don't adhere to these new rules? Well, money is as good a stick as any to threaten these mega-corporations with, and sure enough, 'the Commission can impose fines of up to 10% of its total worldwide turnover in the preceding financial year, or up to 20% in case of repeated non-compliance."

The best bit about this news though, is the following quote from Christel Schaldemose: "For too long tech giants have benefited from an absence of rules. The digital world has developed into a Wild West, with the biggest and strongest setting the rules. But there is a new sheriff in town - the DSA. Now rules and rights will be strengthened. We are opening up the black box of algorithms so that we can have a proper look at the moneymaking machines behind these social platforms.”


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Alan Dexter

Alan has been writing about PC tech since before 3D graphics cards existed, and still vividly recalls having to fight with MS-DOS just to get games to load. He fondly remembers the killer combo of a Matrox Millenium and 3dfx Voodoo, and seeing Lara Croft in 3D for the first time. He's very glad hardware has advanced as much as it has though, and is particularly happy when putting the latest M.2 NVMe SSDs, AMD processors, and laptops through their paces. He has a long-lasting Magic: The Gathering obsession but limits this to MTG Arena these days.