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[NEWS] New EU laws set to revolutionize tech markets

Much has been said in recent years about the dominance of ‘big tech’ firms and the way this unfairly impacts digital markets. But this could all be about to change, with new EU regulations that are aiming at reducing the power of online ‘gatekeeper’ platforms, such as Facebook and Google. The BBC reported that EU officials agreed on the wording of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) last week and, provided further approvals are met, the new legislation could be in effect later this year. 

So which tech giants will be hit and how will it affect them? Any company with a market capitalization that exceeds €75 billion ($82 billion) and also has more than 45 million users would be impacted. This includes the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Meta (formerly Facebook), Alphabet (Google’s parent company), and Booking.com.

The regulations concern interoperability (the extent to which different companies or software applications cooperate), and there will be limits to the use of personal data for the purposes of advertising. The European Commission will also have new powers to place a ban on large mergers.  

Changes to interoperability mean that different messaging services, such as Whatsapp and Telegram, will be forced to allow messages from users of different platforms. 

Another change is that large companies that offer online markets will no longer be able to provide a single option, according to Wired. This means Apple will need to provide alternatives to its App Store for Apple devices, while Android devices will not be limited to Google Play store. When it comes to billing, this is good news for companies like Spotify, which will be able to avoid commission fees of up to 30%.  

The new law heralds a shift in government approaches in dealing with large tech companies. Many U.S. politicians support breaking up big tech, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, who recently introduced legislation that would limit the powers of big tech companies. But France’s Digital Affairs Minister Cédric O, who has been working to draft the DMA, goes with “don’t break them up, break them open”. This suggests that the new regulation will usher in a period of increased sharing and competitiveness.  

The DMA has not been well received by large tech firms like Apple, which told Fortune that it will “create unnecessary security vulnerabilities for our users.” And Google said it would “reduce innovation and the choice available to Europeans.” 

As with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect in 2018, Europe looks to be leading the world in the regulation of large tech companies. Similar to the GDPR, the Digital Markets Act will impose hefty penalties (up to 20% of global revenues) when the regulations are not met. For such large companies, this could be equal to billions of euros. 

The DMA will also be similar to the GDPR in that its impact will reach further than its EU jurisdiction, and many large companies will be forced to rethink their approaches. The law is intended to bring more fairness and innovation to Europe and the rest of the world, so the upcoming months will show us just how markets and users will take to the restrictions on large companies.      

In other news 

For April Fool’s Day today, we’ve decided to have a little fun. One of the stories below is fake. Can you spot it?  

  • Genetically modified animals on the rise. Excellent news for anyone whose cat allergy has prevented them from realizing their “crazy cat person” dreams. According to Gizmodo, a team of researchers has used the gene-editing technology CRISPR to find an effective way to block Fel d 1, a protein produced by cats, and which is believed to cause 90% of cat allergies. Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that UK biotech company Oxitec will release 2.4 billion genetically-modified male mosquitoes in areas of Florida and California to help curb the growth of invasive species in a warming climate.
  • Researchers map fly brains to detect threatening drones. In further insect news, researchers in Australia have been applying the hoverfly’s superior visual and tracking skills to detect the acoustic signatures of drones up to 2.5 miles away. According to ZDNet, insect vision systems have been used to improve camera-based detections for some time, but this is the first time it’s been used for acoustic data. Key applications of the new processing technique include military and defense. 
  • NASA to fly into Aurora borealis. NASA has announced a new mission that aims to fly through an active aurora to study the energy exchange process innate to the northern lights. The magnificent lights of the aurora occur when electrons from near-Earth space enter the Earth’s atmosphere, colliding with the neutral particles all around us. NASA scientists are keenly interested in measuring this boundary layer between Earth and space and just how much the aurora impacts it. 
  • Could a lunar colony be around the corner? The latest space news comes to us from the Scientific Times, which announced that SpaceX plans to build elite housing opportunities on the moon for space tourists. With an estimated cost of $64 billion, it represents a financial stretch for the company, but with billionaires vying for a seat on upcoming moon launches, it may be a solid investment for the company. Construction will begin by 2023 with the first guests slated for 2027. Maybe we should call them No-air BnBs?
  • Ukraine raising military funds by selling NFTs: Engadget reports that Ukraine’s Ministry for Digital Transformation has launched an NFT collection called “Meta History Museum of War.” The collection aims to document the timeline of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while raising money for the military. It currently features 54 NFTs. Each token is added in chronological order and comprises a news story from an official source and a related illustration from an artist. The collection features both Ukrainian and international artists. 
  • Dance with me, tiny robot. Recently Sony Interactive Entertainment unveiled a new EVAL-03 in Tokyo. According to RoboticGizmos, the EVAL-03 is capable of copying a human’s movements, including dancing. 

Tip of the week

For this week’s tip, rather than focus on something you can do for yourself, we thought we’d share a great volunteer opportunity you can do on your break. 

Help save Ukrainian websites! The folks at Archive.org (the organization that brings you the Wayback Machine) have partnered up with Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO), a group founded to preserve online data within Ukraine. 

According to Archive.org, already 1,200 volunteers have managed to save 10 terabytes of data including 14,000 uploaded items from a variety of different websites including Ukrainian museums, libraries, and more. 

And you can help. SUCHO is looking for volunteers to help with the archiving process. They are especially keen to get more volunteers who speak Russian or Ukrainian, or know how to code. To get involved, check out the SUCHO orientation page

You can also help by going to the Wayback Machine to preserve websites yourself. Use the Save Page Now feature to archive any Ukrainian websites that you may know about. If you have an Internet Archive account, you can also use the “Outlinks” feature to capture websites that link to the one you are saving. 

Psst: the fake story is the one about the lunar colony. But you figured that out by clicking on the news source link, right?

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Robert O'Sullivan avatar

Robert O'Sullivan

Robert has lived and worked in distant locations around the globe and is currently based in the Balkans. In addition to travel, he has a passion for language, writing, technology, and making sophisticated concepts more appealing and understandable for readers, which are talents he puts to good use at Namecheap. More articles written by Robert.

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