EU Digital Services Act Implications

Kindus has already outlined the EU Digital Markets Act.  The Digital Services Act is another EU law that came into force on all platforms on 17th February 2024. Both share a common purpose of regulation and protection with the EU promoting them as a common package.  The acts are aimed at the handful of very large bodies on the Internet such as Google, Facebook and Apple.  It is these organisations that are being targeted by the acts but their benefits will be felt by ordinary users.

The Digital Markets Act concentrated on restricting the abilities of large providers to lock down their services with proprietary options and edging out other alternatives.  The Digital Services Act aims to protect users by requiring ‘very large online platforms’ and ‘very large online search engines’ (Google and Bing) to detect and remove illegal content.  This includes the sale of physical goods as well as the display of text or images. In doing so it covers some of the same ground as the UK Online Safety Bill.

Although the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act only apply to the EU and not the UK they do have indirect effects.  From a legal viewpoint an English language user could spoof their location as either EU or UK and be presented with different services thus defying the aims of the legislation.  It might be cheaper and easier for these large organisations to provide the same service in the UK and Republic of Ireland rather than maintaining two standards hence UK users might start to see the effect of the stricter EU regulations.

The efficacy of these laws has been demonstrated by the changes we are already (March 2024) seeing.  Under the Digital Services Act the EU has begun an investigation into how TikTok may be drawing in vulnerable users such as minors and exposing them to inappropriate content through its display algorithms.

In February 2024 Meta declared measures to ensure the accuracy and integrity of posts related to the upcoming EU Parliament elections.  Amongst the reasons cited for this was compliance with the Digital Services Act.  Meta will combat misinformation across Facebook, Instagram and Threads within posts and adverts and label content from state controlled media (which could be considered as biased).

In January 2024 Apple announced changes to IOS, Safari and the App Store to come into line with the Digital Markets Act.  3rd party payment systems will be allowed as an alternative to Apple Pay and browsers other than Safari can be set as the default.  The App Store changes will affect developers some of whom will need to implement new options for users within their software.  Developers will also have the option to distribute their Apps from channels other than the official App Store although Apple will still collect a fee for this.  These changes within Apple will be a mixed blessing for users. Although they signify a greater choice the App Store regulations have been very tight and that worked to keep harmful software away from user’s machines.  It has been claimed that malicious Apps do appear on the store but Apple work against this and the Google Play alternative is seen as a less trustworthy host.

Corporate users should take note of these changes within Apple.  They may be relying on existing restraints to lock down software on their own (MDM) or BYOD systems.  With some opening up of what IOS now supports users could have access to software that was not previously available to their system.  These options could be restricted through software such as the Apple Business Manager system or through user training and regulation.   Here is a case of legislation with a laudable overall aim having a potential negative impact on local security procedures.

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