The EU’s Big Tech Busting Laws Are Great for the US, Too

Finally, someone is fighting the bullies

  • The EU has passed huge new laws to control big tech. 
  • US antitrust laws are starting to gain momentum. 
  • The EU laws will have a global effect, including in the US.
person about to sign a document

Cytonn Photography / Unsplash

It's easy to brush off government regulation as pointless and ineffective, and in the US, it usually is. But in Europe, the government is already putting Big Tech in its place, and new legislation might bring the same to the US. 

The EU has just forced Amazon to make it easier to unsubscribe from Amazon Prime and to refrain from using dark patterns to stop customers from canceling. This ruling was based on existing laws and was announced in the same week the EU voted to put wide-ranging new antitrust laws into effect. But will this European shift make its way across the transatlantic fiber cables to the US?

"I think there is definitely a potential for the laws that the EU passed to have a ripple effect around the world, including here in the US. However, I don't think that the US will pass aggressive laws soon," Ben Michael, attorney at Michael and Associates, told Lifewire via email. 

"Though antitrust reform has had bipartisan support, there are still a handful of concerns that will prevent any major moves from happening," added Michael. "One of the biggest concerns is the potential for greater foreign competition or even dominance should strong antitrust laws in the US be passed. I'm sure our government will be watching how/if this impacts the EU in the months to come."

Big Tech Bullies

This week’s Amazon ruling is interesting because it’s so specific. It requires Amazon to let EU customers unsubscribe from a Prime subscription with just two clicks. If you’ve ever tried to do this before, you’ll know it took far more effort than that. Just finding the right place to start is enough to make anyone give up, which is kind of the point. 

The internet has often been compared to the Wild West, a somewhat lawless frontier where anyone can exploit any idea they can think of. It’s a cliche now, but that doesn’t diminish its truth. Amazon’s deliberately difficult cancellations look like nothing next to the truly unprecedented levels of surveillance and intelligence gathering deployed by the advertising industry, and Apple continues to bully both customers and developers by deciding which apps we can run on our pocket computers and even dictating where we can buy those apps from.

We’ve gotten so used to these practices that we barely notice them anymore, but if you translate them to the physical realm, you can see how bad things have gotten. Imagine, for example, an advertising company sending a human agent to tail you throughout the day and even come into your home to see what you eat and watch every evening.

City Council member Jimmy Van Bramer from Queens questions amazon executives at New York's city council's second hearing in 2019

Andrew Lichtenstein / Corbis / Getty Images

The offline world has long had laws to protect the public from these kinds of practices, and now they're finally coming to the online world. Europe's new Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA) give the EU much more power to force change and to levy fines big enough to hurt even tech giants. 

This kind of legislation is also starting to happen in the US, albeit slowly. But momentum is growing as lawmakers realize they can score political points by standing up for the rights of citizens. And the new bipartisan US Federal Privacy Bill shows that things are getting serious

"Although the US government's progress in creating a modern, unified federal data privacy framework has been slow, the fact that the new proposed bill draft was introduced after bipartisan agreement shows that the US citizens can finally expect a breakthrough in being able to exercise their rights to privacy throughout the country," Danial Markuson, a digital privacy expert with NordVPN, told Lifewire via email. "While this is a significant step forward, the job is not yet done, so we hope to see more progress in the not too distant future."

US and Them

Yet even if the US doesn’t manage to curb Big Tech’s belief that the law doesn’t apply to it, thanks to the global nature of the internet, EU law might take care of it for them. While some US websites blocked European visitors after the GDPR rules required them to comply with EU law, most just opted to apply the rules worldwide.

I think there is definitely a potential for the laws that the EU passed to have a ripple effect around the world, including here in the US.

The EU is already far ahead of the US here, but the signs are good that the global view of the internet is changing. Tech has enjoyed a few decades of being able to do exactly what it wants, regardless of its effect on the world and the people in it. Laws that protect safety and privacy haven’t stifled any other industries, and they won’t kill innovation in the tech sector.

They’ll just force it to grow up and act responsibly.

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