The UK federal government has announced plans to establish a Digital Markets Unit (DMU) to level the advertising playing field currently controlled by the similarity Google and Facebook.
It’s been a while coming. An investigation into online marketing in the UK was kicked off in 2015 by the Competitors and Markets Authority (CMA) to determine the power of the giants and examine if customers understood what data was being gathered and monetised.
The result, and a potential nightmare scenario for the similarity Google and Facebook in the UK, will be a new statutory code of conduct targeted at giving customers more choice and control over what happens to their data in addition to making it possible for small companies to better promote themselves online.
” Online platforms bring huge benefits for organizations and society,” said noted UK legislators before including that the concentration of power amongst a little number of tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, could both minimize innovation and possibly have “negative influence on the people and organizations that depend on them.”
Hint a standard procedure backed up by UK law.
Unfortunately for customers, but perhaps a ray of hope for the ad-flinging behemoths, things stay rather fuzzy and rather heavy on the word “could” at the moment.
If provided adequate teeth, the brand-new system might well show to be a thorn in Google and Facebook’s side and will be notified by the work of Digital Markets Taskforce (DMT), aimed at advising the federal government on how to create and execute procedures to foster competitors. Its report is anticipated later this year.
As for the DMU, it will start work in April but won’t be able to do much without some power behind it. The government will decide on the DMU’s type and function, and will legislate when parliamentary time permits.
‘ Something need to be done’
Neil Brown, handling director at tech law office decoded.legal told The Register: “Today’s announcement is placeholder for what is to come, instead of anything substantive in itself. It indicates intent, and there is a strong sense of ‘something need to be done’, however the information of the proposed steps is left for next year.
” The government says that it means to legislate as quickly as parliamentary time enables, but whether that will seek the assessments foreshadowed by today’s announcement, or in parallel with them, stays to be seen.
” Strangely enough, because ‘online harms’ seems to be the stock expression for anything anybody dislikes about the web, that term is missing from today’s statement. Nevertheless, because among the proposals in regard of that location of policy includes providing Ofcom powers to determine a platform’s terms of service, it looks like there will be an overlap there too.”
As for the tech giants themselves, Google indicated the benefits of online platforms with UK & Ireland veep Ronan Harris saying: “Online tools have actually proved to be a lifeline throughout the pandemic and they can assist produce a digital, sustainable and inclusive healing. We support an approach that benefits individuals, companies and society and we look forward to working constructively with the Digital Markets Unit so that everybody can maximize the web.”
We asked Facebook for its take on matters, but the anti-social media business has yet to react. ®