Forced to change: Tech giants bow to global onslaught of rules

For decades, Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Meta have moved forward with few rules and limits. As their power, wealth and reach grew, a wave of regulatory, legislative and judicial activity arose against them in Europe, the United States, China, India, Canada, South Korea and Australia. Today, the global tipping point for mastering the biggest tech companies has finally tipped.

Companies have been forced to change the everyday technology they offer, including the devices and features of their social media services, which has been particularly noticed by European users. Companies are also making significant but less visible changes, for example in their business models, trading practices and data sharing.

The degree of change is evident at Apple. While the Silicon Valley company once offered its App Store as a unified marketplace worldwide, it now has different rules for App Store developers in South Korea, the European Union and the United States due to new laws and court decisions. The company abandoned the proprietary design of an iPhone charger due to another European law, meaning future iPhones will have a charger that will work with non-Apple devices.

These changes mean that people’s technological experiences will increasingly differ depending on where they live. In Europe, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat users under the age of 18 no longer see ads based on their personal data, the result of a 2022 law called the Digital Services Act. Elsewhere in the world, young people still see such advertisements on these platforms.

The tech industry is essentially maturing and becoming more like banking, automobiles and health care, with companies adapting their products and services to local laws and regulations, said Greg Taylor, a professor at the University from Oxford specializing in competition in technology markets.