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Google Gives Europe’s Phone Users More Rights Ahead of New EU Law

Can the Australian government bite the bullet and give Aussie consumers the same access to smartphone services that the European Union is delivering?

This is now a burning issue, given that European smartphone users will be markedly better off than users in countries such as Australia, when its Digital Markets Act (DMA) comes into force on March 6.

The European Union through its executive commission has taken a long term stand against the excesses of the big tech firms: their anti-trust manoeuvrings to gain market advantage, and their disregard for the rights of consumers, especially privacy.

Time will tell if the Australian government has the same courage as their European counterparts, but the EU is trailblazing in this space and everyone soon will see the difference.

In a measure just announced – a few days ahead of the DMA taking effect – Google has agreed that in Europe, phone users can decide how much data-sharing they are comfortable with, and opt out of linked services – Search, YouTube, Ad services, Google Play, Chrome, Google Shopping and Google Maps.

The upside of linking services is the degree of personalisation Google can deliver, such as advertisements chosen based on your use of these apps.

The downside is that some features made possible by data sharing won’t be available.

“When Search, YouTube, and Chrome are not linked services, your recommendations in Search, like ‘What to watch’ and your Discover feed will be less personalized,” warns Google. “When Search and Maps are not linked services, Reservations made on Search won’t appear in Google Maps.”

It’s up to the user to choose either way.

Google’s concession on data sharing is the tip of the iceberg, in terms of what big tech firms must comply with, come March 6.

Other measures include tighter restrictions on the collection of data, and an ability for users to uninstall preloaded applications that they simply don’t want.

There is also the interoperability of messaging services. The European Union has been concerned at the market dominance of messaging services such as WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, and Apple’s iMessage.

In Europe, smaller messaging services will be able to exchange messages with larger ones, in a move seen as enhancing competition. There are complications, such as the use of end-to-end encryption in this environment which will need to be thrashed out.

In the end, it will be harder for big tech to try to dominate European markets.

It won’t be so easy for companies to keep users within their own ‘walled-garden’ platforms, to track their online usage for advertising purposes, and for big tech firms to favour their own services in supposedly impartial user recommendations.

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