EU agrees clamp down rules on data misuse, targeted advertising and illegal content
Tech giants including Meta, Apple, Amazon and Google will have to make their algorithms available to the European Commission and its member states in a new set of rules designed to protect citizens’ data and online rights.
EU negotiators have agreed a new set of rules that will also require platforms to remove illegal products and services as well as placing restrictions on product recommendations and targeted advertising.
Late last week, the European Parliament and the European Council (the body that represents member states) released a statement announcing that they had reached a provisional political agreement on the Digital Services Act (DSA) which it hoped would set the standards for ” a safer and more open digital space for users and a level playing field for companies.”
Under the DSA, the European Commission and member states will have access to the algorithms of very large online platforms – which it defines as “platforms that have more than 45 million users”.
Other requirements include the clear and swift removal of illegal online content, products and services and stronger safeguards to ensure notices are processed in a non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory manner and with respect for fundamental rights, including the freedom of expression and data protection.
Penalties for infringement mean that online platforms and search engines can be fined up to 6% of their global turnover. In the case of very large online platforms the EU Commission will have exclusive power to demand compliance.
Targeted ad and search restrictions
Platforms must inform users about how content is recommended to them and to enable them to choose at least one option not based on profiling.
Targeted advertising is banned when it comes to sensitive data (based on sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity for instance); Targeting of advertising to minors meanwhile, will be banned outright.
Platforms will also be prevented from ‘nudging’ people to use their service by giving them more prominence in search results, for instance, while cancelling a subscription service should be as easy as signing up for it.
Larger online platforms will be obliged, under the DSA to assess and mitigate systemic risks and will be subject to annual independent audits.
The EC will also have the power to require large platforms to limit urgent threats in time of public security or health crises.
The EC said that it plans to give SMEs more time to apply the new rules and will monitor the potential economic effects closely.
Once the draft text is finalised, the European Parliament and the Council will formally approve the act, which will come into force 20 days after its publication in the official journal. Rules will start to apply after 15 months.
Parliamentary rapporteur Christel Schaldemose said that the act would “set new global standards” by giving citizens “better control over how their data is used” by platforms and big tech companies.
“For the European Parliament, additional obligations on algorithmic transparency and disinformation are important achievements,” she said, adding that the rules “guarantee more choice for users and new obligations for platforms on targeted ads, including bans to target minors and restricting data harvesting for profiling.”
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