Meta and Apple likely to be first targets of Europe's new antitrust powers

Meta has good reason to be angry with European tech regulators. On Friday, it had to suspend the deployment of Meta AI in Europe, at the request of its main privacy regulator in Ireland, after privacy advocates loudly protested that Meta could not train its AI on data personal data of European users of Facebook and Instagram without their consent.

Meta's challenges facing European regulations

Meta was recently forced to suspend the deployment of Meta AI in Europe, following a request from its main privacy regulator in Ireland. The move follows complaints from privacy advocates who say Meta cannot use the personal data of European Facebook and Instagram users to train its AI without their explicit consent.

Meta expressed his displeasure by stating that without including local information, it could only offer a second-rate experience. She considers this situation as a a step back for European innovation.

The Looming Threat of New Antitrust Charges

According to Reuters, the European Commission is preparing to target Meta and Apple with its new antitrust powers, based on Digital Markets Act (DMA) entered into force a few months ago. The first charges should concern Apple, followed by those targeting Meta.

The implications of GDPR for Meta AI

The central issue for Meta AI lies in the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which requires a strong legal basis for any processing of personal data. Meta hoped to be able to justify the use of European users' data by its "legitimate interests", but this did not convince regulators. The only plausible option therefore remains to obtain the consent of each user, which Meta has not yet undertaken.

DMA Challenges for Meta

Meta's issues with the DMA also relate to data protection and the need for consent, this time regarding user tracking for ad targeting purposes. Over the years, a series of lawsuits initiated by Austrian lawyer Max Schrems systematically eliminated the legal justifications Meta could use for this tracking, leaving valid consent as the only remaining option.

Meta attempted a subscription strategy where users could pay up to $13 per month to get ad-free Meta services, otherwise they had to consent to tracking to use Facebook and Instagram. However, European regulators have rejected this approach, ruling that Big Tech platforms cannot claim to have valid consent if the alternative is paying a fee.

Potential charges against Apple

Apple is also subject to new DMA regulations. The company introduced a “base technology fee” of €0,50 for each first install of an app published by a developer choosing to make their apps available in a third-party app store. This measure was seen as an attempt to circumvent the spirit of the DMA, which requires fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory access conditions for other businesses.

Like Meta, Apple declined to comment on reports of these impending charges, which could result in fines of up to 10% of global annual revenue.


Sources used for this article:

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