TECH TALK: New legislation to control internet intrusion may prove to be too weak, says BILL MAGEE
The Queen’s Speech was closely monitored for vital updates of the long-anticipated online safety legislation that, it’s hoped, will be endowed with tough statutory powers, signalling a new era of data control. But businesses fear the new bill will carry no real clout to tackle concerns they have over constant commercial and personal privacy threats from internet and mobile channels.
The Financial Times issued an early warning of a watered-down law with a vague timescale. It claimed the body tasked with dealing with such online privacy issues, the new Digital Markets Unit (DMU), will lack real powers either to set rules or to impose fines on tech heavyweights deemed to have flouted regulations.
Added to those concerns, there is talk of a Conservative rebellion and legal challenges over which material social media companies will be required to tackle under the new law.
The Competition and Markets Authority recommends a legally binding code involving fines of up to 10% of a company’s annual turnover. The National Cyber Security Centre proposes the government commits to the world’s first code of practice cracking down on fraud and other malicious acts, specifically via apps.
Big Tech ethics come under the spotlight. An individual can ask Google to remove their data from its search results and the company offers an online tool to anyone wishing to have their phone number, email even street address dropped. But such apparent openness isn’t all it appears. Anyone submitting a removal request will be asked what URL website addresses are involved along with various search terms and screenshots.
Google admits there will remain other reasons why it might deny such a request. If it deems certain data is broadly useful, part of the public record, newsworthy, material already posted on a government site or posted on numerous other official outlets.
It smacks of a prime example of an IT heavyweight giving the impression it wants to influence change, but in reality remaining resistant towards giving up its highly-lucrative monopolistic position in the global marketplace.
In contrast, the European Union has accelerated the timing of its own Digital Markets Act (DMA). Described as a landmark piece of legislation, it is designed to curb the powers of mostly US-headquartered big tech beasts.
Strong opposition is expected with claims it will stifle innovation. Apple and – wait for it – Google are two who have spoken out against DMA. Amazon is reviewing what the rules mean to its customers and Twitter looks forward to “reviewing the bill”.
Big tech players have done particularly well out of the pandemic due to the working from home (WFH) global trend, collectively recording an eye-watering £2 trillion market capitalisation in 2021.
When it comes to effective data control it’ll take more than a few half-hearted and fragmented regulatory moves to bring any real and long-lasting change…