USB-C, privacy, competition… how Europe is changing the rules of global Tech


Who said that Europe has no influence on the global economy? Often mocked, sometimes mocked, the European Union has made this year a series of decisions aimed at further framing the practices of tech and digital giants.

With the Digital Markets Act (which aims to regulate the digital market) and the Digital Services Act (which aims to regulate digital services), Europe has kicked in the anthill.

While the American (and Chinese) giants thought they were continuing to impose their rules, the European commissioners and deputies tied up texts whose first effects are already felt, only a few months after their final vote.

The implementation of this new framework will oblige Apple, Google, Microsoft and others to modify their habits, sometimes leaves to completely change philosophy. And since it would be expensive to adapt solely to the European market, these giants will, out of turn, apply some of these rules worldwide.

USB-C and compulsory removable batteries

eu port charging smartphone

USB-C will be the single port chosen by the European Union © Unsplash / Lucian Alexe

After years of resistance, Apple will have to resolve to abandon its owner port “Lightning” for good. If the iPads have almost all adopted the USB-C, the iPhone remained the last product that can keep it.

Apple would no doubt have liked to prolong the lifespan of its faithful Lightning a little, but Europe has decided otherwise. For ecological reasons, the European Union wanted to impose a universal charger, compatible with both iPhone and Android smartphones, tablets or PCs. She therefore chose USB-C, the most widespread technology in the world.

Defeat for Apple lobbyists who did not want to let go. “We will have to comply, we have no choice” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s marketing boss, during a Wall Street Journal roundtable.

From December 28, 2024, all new electronic devices with a charging port will have to integrate a USB-C port, otherwise nothing. Apple therefore has up to the iPhone 17 to offer a model compliant with European requirements, with USB-C or a wireless load only.

The USB-C port was not the only battle horse of the European authorities. Among the other rules requiring an industrial upheaval, the return of a compulsory removable battery has made its way.

On December 9, 2022, the European Commission voted a final agreement so that the manufacturers of smartphones, tablets, PC (and even bicycles) no longer integrate unimportible batteries with their devices. The objective: to make our electronic devices easier to repair, at least in the case of a change of battery.

Indeed, to date, almost all of the devices available on the market have to go through approved repairers to change a dead or degraded battery over time. This encourages some consumers to switch smartphones. The return to removable batteries would therefore avoid certain renewals and would limit the production of electronic devices whose ecological consequences are catastrophic.

If the text is validated by the European Parliament, the tech giants will therefore have, within three and a half years, to change their way of designing their electronic devices so that they all integrate removable batteries.

Opening up to competition

iphone 14 plus ios review

© Press Citron

In addition to upsetting their industrial processes, tech companies will also have to change their way of designing their software. The DMA and DSA plan to open digital markets and services to competition.

Apple, Meta and Google (among others) will therefore have to comply with these rules. Concretely, from 2023, Apple will have to offer iOS in a free version For any iPhone user. Above all, Apple will have to open and offer alternative application shops to the App Store.

It will be the same for Google, which currently only offers the Play Store. Thus, alternative shops like those of Huawei, Samsung, or as Aptoide will have to be accessible to users without complex manipulations. In addition, users can delete all pre-installed applications. A real blow for Google whose economic model of Android is based on the integration of its services.

Communication tools must also be interoperable, in particular messaging services. Today, it is impossible to send a message with Imessage and receive it on another service. A problem for Europe which considers that closing a communication tool is the antipodes of the very meaning of communication.

We do not yet know how the market players will go there to make their services more open. Europe has thought of an in-house application on which it would be possible to aggregate all messaging services and exchange without constraints. The project has been late but other companies are thinking about a similar solution.

Finally, users will be able to choose their payment methods, another blow for Apple which only accepted Apple Pay.

Social networks: the party is over

Twitter smartphone logo

© Unsplash / Jeremy Bezanger

With the DSA, the digital giants will also have to put an end to decades of sometimes scandalous practices. First part: respect for privacy.

From now on, Google, Twitter, Facebook and others will no longer have the right to target advertising for children or based on sensitive data such as sexual orientation or religion.

To avoid any confusion or rely on the famous “It is written in our conditions of use”, the platforms will have to review these conditions of use. They should be understandable to everyone. Bye bye the CGU of 100 pages and mentions at the bottom of the page in tiny.

Among the other rules imposed by Europe, the one that shakes digital giants is undoubtedly that forcing them to open their algorithms to authorities upon request. A team of specialists (around 150 to start) will analyze them to detect possible dubious practices or violate users’ privacy.

In the case of social networks, several adjustments will be necessary. The first will consist of Set up moderation teams, able to understand the language of each country. They will have to ensure compliance with the laws of reality in the virtual world.

This moderation should be supplemented by a simple reporting tool with an obligation to react quickly. In the event of a crisis, digital giants must react at the request of Europe.

Difficult not to see a discrepancy between what has become twitter since his acquisition by Elon Musk and the rules imposed by Europe. However, the billionaire has committed to Thierry Breton, European commissioner, to comply with the rules, the sanctions that can go as far as blocking the social network.

Europe represents a market of 450 million users, more than the United States. It is therefore difficult for the digital giants not to comply with the rules. Even Elon Musk.

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