New EU Rules ‘Would Open Tech Giants’ Algorithms To Scrutiny’

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Proposed Digital Services Act would force tech giants to explain their ad targeting algorithms and open ad archives to researchers, says EU competition chief

Proposed new EU rules governing digital services and markets would force tech giants to explain how their ad targeting algorithms work and allow access to their ad archives to regulators and researchers, the EU’s digital and antitrust commissioner has said.

European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the proposed Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA) aim to make ad targeting more transparent and to ensure companies are held accountable for their decisions.

“The biggest platforms would have to provide more information on the way their algorithms work, when regulators ask for it,” Vestager told an event held by research group AlgorithmWatch and the European Policy Centre on Friday, Reuters reported.

Companies such as Google and Facebook, which dominate internet advertising, would also have to give regulators access to the data they hold, including ad archives, Vestager said.

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.  European Commission
EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.  European Commission

Transparency

Her remarks follow an event earlier in the week at which Vestager said the new rules would also take aim at the ability of large tech “gatekeepers” to unfairly boost their own position by manipulating search rankings.

Drafts of the DSA and DMA are set to be formally submitted on 2 December amidst a renewed push to curb the power of large tech companies, with the process of turning the proposals into law is likely to take at least a year.

Meanwhile, Google is planning an aggressive lobbying campaign against the proposed rules and against regulators including French EU markets commissioner Thierry Breton, according to a leaked internal document.

The document, whose contents were earlier reported by French magazine Le Point, lays out a 60-day strategy that aims to remove “unreasonable constraints” to Google’s business model and to “reset the political narrative” around the proposed legislation.

The document singles out Breton, who has been an outstanding supporter of breaking up big tech companies, recommending to “increase pushback” against Breton while “weakening support” for the legislation.

‘Concerns’

Other objectives laid out in the document are to “undermine the idea DSA has no cost to Europeans” and to “show how the DSA limits the potential of the internet . . . just as people need it the most”.

The presentation is labelled “privileged and need-to-know” and “confidential and proprietary”.

Google acknowledged in an official statement that it has “concerns” about some of the DSA’s proposed measures that it believes would “prevent global technology companies from serving the growing needs of European users and businesses”.

The company added: “We fully support, and will continue to advocate for, a DSA that ensures technology can contribute to Europe’s recovery and future economic success.”

Dominant tech companies including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have come under renewed pressure from regulators in recent months, with the US Justice Department filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google in October and the FTC reportedly planning a similar action against Facebook within weeks.

The heads of Google and Twitter also testified before the US Senate last week in defence of a law that protects tech firms from liability over content posted by users.

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