Wired talks about the potential consequences of the EU Digital Markets Act which will enter into force later this year. It requires amongst others interoperability between messenger services by so-called tech ‘gatekeepers’ (Google, Apple, Facebook/Meta etc). The stance taken is that such interoperability is bad for end-to-end encryption. Wired uncritically accepts the industry’s response to a law that is addressing Big Tech’s monopolistic and competivity problems by regulating lock-in. Wired even goes hyperbolic by using ‘Doomed To Fail’ in the title of the piece. What stands out to me is WhatsApp (Facebook/Meta) gaslighting with the following:
“Changes of this complexity risk turning a competitive and innovative industry into SMS or email, which is not secure and full of spam,”
Will Cathcart, Meta’s head of WhatsApp, gaslighting the public about the DMA.
A competitive and innovative industry you say? Incapable of dealing with a mere rule change that just happens to break your monopolistic chokehold on your customers, you say? Nice dig towards e-mail and SMS too.
Meanwhile the non-profit Matrix has scoped out ways forward. Not easy, but also not impossible for the innovation and competivity inclined, as per the previous boasts of the competitive and innovative.
It reminds me of a session I with colleagues once had years ago with most providers of route navigation services, where it was about opening up real time traffic and road information by the Dutch government, specifically changes to roads. The big navigation providers, both of the consumer products, as well as the in-car providers, generally struggled with anything that would lead to more frequent changes in the underlying maps (adding stuff to dynamic layers on top of a map is easier, changing the map layer is harder). It would mess up their update cycles because of months long lead times for updates, and the tendency of the general public to only sporadically update their maps. This is the reason you still come across traffic signs saying ‘situation changed, switch off navigation’, because of your navigation provider’s ‘competitive and innovative’ attitude towards change.
There was one party in the room who already was able to process such deeper changes at whatever frequency. It wasn’t a ‘gatekeeper’ in that context of course but a challenger. It was the non-profit in the room, Open Street Map. Where changes are immediately rolled out to all users and services. Where interoperability is built in since the start.
“Situation changed, navigation on”, the type of response you’d expect instead of the usual ‘situation changed, navigation off’. This photo taken in 2016 or 2017 in Leeuwarden, where I’ve been working on open data. Image Ton Zijlstra, license CC BY NC SA
(The EU DMA is part of a much wider package of regulation, including the GDPR, expressing a geopolitical position w.r.t. everything digital and data.)
(I’m looking forward to the fits thrown when they close read the Data Act, where any consumer has the right of access to all data created through their use of a product of service, and can assign third parties to share it with. PSD2-for-everything, in short)