Digital Markets Act - Device Neutrality must be consolidated in the legislation
On December 15, the Digital Markets Act, the EU's comprehensive regulatory package for internet platforms, will go through plenary voting at the European Parliament. The FSFE calls for consolidating Device Neutrality to enable fair and non-discriminatory use of Free Software in digital devices.
The European Union is about to introduce a major overhaul of Internet legislation with the Digital Markets Act (DMA). After successful committee voting on 22 November, the European Parliament will conduct plenary voting on 15 December. The FSFE advocates Device Neutrality as a fundamental step to achieve a contestable, open, and competitive digital market in the EU and urges the European Parliament to secure this principle in the final voting.
Device Neutrality - fostering Free Sofware in an end-user centric digital market
The DMA focuses on "gatekeepers", understood as very large tech companies that have control over large parts of digital services, such as search engines, social networking services, messaging services, operating systems, and online intermediation services. While digital devices are a ubiquitous reality in all aspects of life, our control over the hardware and software running on them is increasingly being limited. Device Neutrality is the policy concept that users should have the right of non-discrimination of the services and software they use, based on platform control by hardware vendors, manufacturers, and service providers. The goal is to enable users to bypass gatekeepers and enable a fair and non-discriminatory use of Free Software in devices.
After many iterations and amendments, the DMA's final text submitted to the plenary voting incorporates the following Device Neutrality principles, which the FSFE urges the European Parliament to consolidate in the plenary voting:
- Strict end-user consent for pre-installed apps. The DMA must impose on gatekeepers the obligation to allow their customers to uninstall any pre-installed software applications they provide on their services or with their hardware. This means more restrictive rules for pre-installed apps, providing users the same access privileges for both pre-installed and alternative apps, and the possibility to uninstall pre-loaded apps.
- No vendor lock-in. The DMA should enable side-loading of apps in dominant operating systems, so consumers can install any compatible software on their devices. The DMA should require gatekeepers to permit third-party app stores and code repositories that compete with their own. The law must prohibit gatekeepers limiting the ability of end-users to switch between and subscribe to different software applications and services. This will prevent gatekeepers from locking users into specific service providers.
- Interoperability of services based on Open Standards. It is urgent for the DMA to require gatekeepers to provide access and interoperability to hardware and software features accessed or controlled via the gatekeeper's operating system. That means that the operating system's functionalities and available APIs should be transparent and available to apps in a non-discriminatory way. Interoperability should be defined by Open Standards.
- Real-time data portability. The DMA should require gatekeepers to provide real-time data portability for devices, so that consumers can switch from one device to another - including operating systems - as smoothly as possible.