30th Sep 2022

MEPs adopt new digital 'rule book', amid surveillance doubts

  • The two bills were approved with the support of the majority of MEPs — with EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton dubbing the 'landslide' vote as 'historic' (Photo: mw238)
Listen to article

The European Parliament on Tuesday (5 July) gave the final green light to two flagship policies aimed at enacting consumer rights and transparency of online platforms — following a compromise reached with the European Council earlier this year.

"No other jurisdiction in the world has taken the courage and the action to go for a combination of laws about fairness in markets, online services and products, and responsibility of online platforms," German MEP Andreas Schwab, lead lawmaker on this file, told a press conference after the vote.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The Digital Services Act (DSA) will regulate illegal content online, setting out transparency and consumer-protections obligations for online players. While the Digital Markets Act (DMA) prohibits anti-competitive behaviours by internet providers acting as "gatekeepers".

The two bills were approved with the support of the majority of MEPs — with EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton dubbing the "landslide" vote as "historic".

The DSA was adopted with 539 votes in favour, 54 votes against and 30 abstentions, while the DMA was adopted with 588 in favour, 11 votes against and 31 abstentions.

When the two legislative proposals were announced back in 2020, the European Commission said new rules would help to bring an end to decades of online 'Wild West' in which tech giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter created their own rules.

Danish socialist MEP Christel Schaldemose, who has also been leading the parliament's work on this file, said new rules will open up a black box of algorithms and allow authorities to monitor "the money-making machines behind these social platforms."

But experts, digital advocates, and human rights defenders remain cautious over the outcome of the year-long negotiations.

"The approved text fails to ensure complete regulation over some of the most harmful practices online," said the Brussels-based European Digital Rights (EDRi) group.

Echoing the same message, some MEPs said that rules will fail to address tech companies' abusive surveillance and profiling practices.

"We tried to make the Digital Services Act a game-changer and overcome the surveillance capitalist business model of pervasive tracking online but failed," said Green MEP Patrick Breyer from the German Pirate Party.

The rules, he said, fail to provide an alternative to "toxic platform algorithms" and protect legal content from being blocked by error-prone upload filters.

The DSA and the DMA have faced intense corporate lobbying in key aspects of the legislation such as 'surveillance advertising' — the key business model of big online players.

Once formally adopted also by EU member states, the DSA will enter into force in 2024. Under the DMA, big tech giants will have up to six months to comply with the new obligations, after they have been designated by the commission as so-called gatekeepers.


The Digital Services Act — a case-study in keeping public in dark

Companies and lobby groups like Spotify, Google and International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) were able to lobby member states using live knowledge of the trilogue discussions on content-ranking systems, advertising and liability for search engines.

MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'

MEPs will vote on new rules setting out transparency obligations for online players and holding Big Tech giants accountable. But some issues proved to be divisive after EU lawmakers tabled over a hundred amendments on the file.

Experts warn MEPs on tracking ads: 'Don't be fooled'

EU lawmakers have agreed not to ban tracking-based advertising, after a lobby campaign. But experts have warned MEPs these techniques pose a risk for users' privacy rights and the EU's digital sovereignty.

New doubts raised on tracking ads ahead of key vote

Investors and small businesses are not, in fact, as keen on tracking-based online adverts as Big Tech's lobbying efforts have claimed, new research revealed on Monday, ahead of this week's plenary vote on stricter rules for online platforms.


The Greek Watergate

In the European Parliament hearing into espionage against Greek politicians and reporters, the spied-upon journalists recounted their experiences — but the non-answers provided by the Greek government official were embarrassing, confrontative, and institutionally vacant.


NSO surveillance rival operating in EU

As European Parliament hearings into hacking scandals resume this week, an investigation led by Lighthouse Reports with EUobserver, Der Spiegel, Domani and Irpimedia reveals the unreported scale of operations at a shady European surveillance outfit.

News in Brief

  1. EU ministers adopt measures to tackle soaring energy bills
  2. EU takes Malta to court over golden passports
  3. EU to ban Russian products worth €7bn a year more
  4. Denmark: CIA did not warn of Nord Stream attack
  5. Drone sightings in the North Sea 'occurred over months'
  6. Gazprom threatens to cut gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine
  7. New compromise over EU energy emergency measures
  8. 15 states push for EU-wide gas price cap

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Going Down Under — EU needs to finish trade deal with Australia
  2. MEPs worry Russian disinfo weakens support for Ukraine
  3. Everything you need to know about the EU gas price cap plan
  4. Why northeast Italy traded in League for Brothers of Italy
  5. How US tech giants play EU states off against each other
  6. Deregulation of new GMO crops: science or business?
  7. The European shipping giants plying Putin's fossil-fuels trade
  8. Russian ideologue and caviar on latest EU blacklist

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us