In today’s world, the internet is one of the main drivers of social change. By design, the Internet is open, global and independent of traditional regulatory boundaries.
Due to its global nature, national governments are ill-equipped to adequately regulate the internet. But, of course, it is unwise (and dangerous) to allow online activity to become widespread without some form of regulation.
The European Union (EU) is one of the most prominent contributors to internet regulation. Let’s take a look back at past EU efforts to bring some regulation into the online world, and how it will shape the internet.
1. Open Internet Access Regulation
The Open Internet Access Regulation came into effect in April 2016 and was updated in June 2020. This regulation introduced the rights of individual European citizens to have fair access to internet content and services of their choice.
It also required Internet service providers to apply the principle of non-discriminatory Internet traffic management. Except in rare cases, internet service providers were not allowed to restrict or throttle the internet traffic of EU customers.
2. General Data Protection Regulation
The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, came into effect in May 2018. It is a broad law that gives EU citizens significant control over their data. It contains the guidelines for the protection, storage and transfer of data of EU citizens.
This regulation broadens the definition of personal data and obliges companies to obtain user authorization before sharing data with third parties. It also requires internet companies to comply with any request from an EU citizen to delete or update incorrect data. They must also notify users of a data breach within 72 hours.
we have a comprehensive explanation of the GDPR and its implicationsand we also explained how the GDPR can help you identify malicious sites†
3. Digital Markets Act
The Digital Market Act, or DMA, is a proposed legislation that focuses entirely on Big Tech companies or “gatekeepers”. It will only affect companies worth more than $75 billion and with at least 45 million monthly users.
This legislation is an attempt to curb big tech companies that develop monopoly power and the associated restrictions on user experience. The law has about 20 rules targeting perceived anti-competitive behavior by these companies. Companies would be sanctioned for non-compliance with fines of up to 10% of their global turnover.
The DMA has major consequences for Big Tech. For example, if the bill is approved, Apple will be forced to open the App Store to alternative payment apps or risk a fine. Chat apps, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and iMessage, should be interoperable with each other and with competitors.
Also, Google should offer alternatives to its own services on Android smartphones, and Apple should allow iOS users to remove Safari and other proprietary apps and services.
4. Digital Services Act
The Digital Services Act, or DSA, is the sister law of the DMA and it is a regulation that specifically targets online platforms. Online platforms have become great common meeting places for ideas, news and exchange of goods and services.
But these platforms each have different rules and mysterious algorithms, leaving users at the mercy of all their whims. The purpose of the Digital Services Act is to clarify the rights of users and the responsibilities of online platforms.
As with the DMA, larger organizations will have more obligations under the DSA. The largest companies, such as Meta and Google, which have at least 45 million EU users, would be the most targeted.
The Digital Service Act will establish EU-wide regulations for the operation of social networks and marketplaces. This includes guidelines on advertising and regulations on the sale of illegal goods or services on online marketplaces. Under the DSA, major online platforms are also required to provide at least one algorithm-based ranking system that is not based on profiling.
Most importantly, the DSA needs major online platforms like Facebook and Instagram to make their algorithms transparent to users. It also prohibits “dark patterns” or manipulative interfaces designed to influence users’ decisions.
The potential impact of EU regulations
Now that we’ve gone through the legalities, there’s one important question to answer. How can we expect these laws to reshape the internet space?
1. Better data protection for consumers online
As internet companies continue to treat users as products sold to the highest bidder, data privacy remains an elusive target.
In addition to complying with EU laws in Europe, companies can be forced to offer the data rights required by the policy to users around the world. At least for simplicity or uniformity.
According to the BBC, Apple claims provisions in the DMA will create privacy and security concerns for its users. While not exactly groundless, this is the expected response. But full adoption can cut costs and streamline corporate compliance because they don’t have to adjust privacy requirements by region.
This means that non-European users can benefit from the data protection provided by these EU laws.
2. Increased interoperability
According to the DMA, independent apps and services must be interoperable. This effectively evens the playing field for large and small platforms, which is a good thing.
However, there are real security concerns, such as: weakened encryptionwhich could jeopardize user privacy and make EU efforts counterproductive.
3. Potential for Censorship
Finally, these regulations may limit the growth potential of technology companies, especially in Europe. The added regulation could put them at a disadvantage compared to non-EU companies. With more EU regulations on content, internet companies could be forced to censor content for their European users.
Should the internet be monitored?
As the internet has become a bigger part of our lives, governments are realizing the enormous power that internet companies have amassed. Allowing a monopoly on such an essential societal tool is unhealthy, which is why the EU’s efforts are a crucial step towards preserving fair competition and user sovereignty as the internet progresses.
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