The EU Digital Services Act Would Make Smartphone Bloatware Removable

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You may not have to put up with non-removable bloatware on your phone or computer for much longer, at least in Europe. The European Union (EU) is planning to force OEMs to let users uninstall any pre-installed apps on their devices, the Financial Times reports.

The new law is a part of the upcoming Digital Services Act regulation that the EU is currently working on. The regulation, the draft of which is still in early stages, could pass by the end of this year. The Digital Services Act is reportedly the first big overhaul of the EU rules that regulate the internet in the region. The EU is hoping to set global standards on how to fight "Big Tech."

EU to force OEMs to make pre-installed apps removable

Smartphones come with a plethora of pre-installed apps. These apps are loaded either by the phone maker or your carrier. While we use some of those apps pretty frequently, many of them are used by only a fraction of people who buy those phones. Worst yet, you can't even remove them. They sit there eating up the phone's memory without serving any purpose to you.

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The European Union wants to change that for good. Details are scarce at the moment, but the EU's Digital Services Act regulation will "rock" tech giants, the report adds. Big tech companies such as Facebook and Google often strike deals with OEMs to pre-install their apps.

The draft also mentions that companies cannot force other companies to exclusively pre-install their software. The EU had fined Google for allegedly forcing phone makers to bundle its apps on their phones.

The Act would also block companies from giving preferential treatment of their own services to the detriment of rivals. Phone makers like Xiaomi and Samsung preload their own suite of apps on their Android phones even when they come with pre-installed Google alternatives.

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The Digital Services Act may see resistance from Google and others

The Digital Services Act would also require the likes of Amazon and Google to share their "huge troves of customer data with smaller rivals". Such tech biggies will not be able to use data they collect from users for their own commercial activities "unless they make it accessible to business users active in the same commercial activities," the draft of the new regulation reads.

Additionally, the so-called "gatekeeper platforms," companies that run the sites or marketplaces that others do business on, would not be able to use "data received from business users for advertising services for any other purpose other than advertising services". Google's Play Store and Apple's App Store are some of the major "gatekeeper platforms."

As expected, the Act is already seeing pushback from the likes of Google. The internet giant suggested that regulators shouldn't be looking to consider "new and distinct regulatory frameworks" just yet. Instead, the company calls for modernizing the existing rules.

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Google also doesn't want the regulators to rush to define platforms as gatekeepers. "In certain sectors, the platform may have market power; in others, it may be a new entrant or marginal player. The digital ecosystem is extremely diverse and evolving rapidly and it would be misguided for gatekeeper designations to be evaluated by reference to the position of an entire company or corporate group," it said.