Google rolls out privacy changes ahead of DMA compliance day

In anticipation of the impending enforcement of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) on March 7, Google, under Alphabet’s umbrella, has introduced a series of changes designed to comply with the landmark EU tech rules. These alterations not only impact the search giant’s users but also extend to app developers, aiming to foster a more competitive and open digital ecosystem.

As part of its commitment to adhere to the DMA, Google revealed changes to search results and introduced new tools for app developers. The DMA targets major tech players like Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Meta Platforms, and ByteDance, categorizing them as gatekeepers responsible for managing access to their platforms for millions of users and businesses.

Google has recently unveiled several changes in line with the DMA’s requirements. These changes encompass additional browser and search choice screens for users of Android phones during device setup, soon to extend to users of Chrome for desktop and iOS devices. The design of these screens is informed by user research, testing, and industry feedback.

In a notable privacy-oriented move, Google announced the cessation of default-linking of personal data across user accounts for certain products. This change aligns with the DMA’s prohibition of using people’s data for advertising without explicit consent. However, the company appears to employ nuanced language, emphasizing user choice while omitting the fact that it is compelled to halt consentless tracking.

As a significant DMA gatekeeper with eight regulated platforms, including Google Maps, Google Play, Google Shopping, Google Ads, Chrome, Android, Google Search, and YouTube, Google is implementing a variety of changes. This includes upgrades to its advertising products, ensuring advertisers communicate consent for data collection, adhering to its “long-standing EU end user consent policy.”

Another crucial change, set to commence on March 6, involves Google allowing Android developers of Play-distributed apps to lead users in the European Economic Area (EEA) outside the app for promotional purposes. This departure from anti-steering restrictions may empower developers to redirect users to their own platforms, potentially reducing the commission fees charged through Google’s app store.

In response to DMA requirements, Google is set to launch a Data Portability API for developers in the EEA, facilitating easier service switching and multi-homing. TikTok has also announced a similar initiative, aligning with the DMA’s focus on promoting competition by enabling data portability.

Despite the high risk of DMA implications for Google, the company’s blog post suggests compliance with certain requirements, such as Android’s ability to install alternative app stores and sideload apps. As the March 7 enforcement era approaches, with compliance reports becoming public, the European Commission, the sole enforcer of the DMA, faces the task of ensuring robust enforcement of this landmark digital reform. Stakeholder feedback and detailed workshops will play a crucial role in shaping the regulatory landscape.

Written by Maya Robertson


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