In a significant move to align with the European Union’s new competition rules, Meta has announced comprehensive changes to its operations. These modifications are in response to the Digital Markets Act (DMA), a groundbreaking legislation targeting abusive practices by Big Tech and promoting fairer dealings among the world’s leading digital platforms.

The DMA, affecting only a select group of six major tech giants, including Meta, aims to curb the overpowering influence of these corporations. In September, the EU identified Meta as a “gatekeeper,” highlighting six of its products as “core platform services” under the DMA. These include the social networks Facebook and Instagram, Meta’s ads delivery system, messaging services WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and the Marketplace platform.

One of the DMA’s key restrictions involves limiting the processing of user data for advertising, demanding explicit user consent. Furthermore, the law prohibits gatekeepers from merging user data across their primary services or with data from other services or third parties without clear user approval.

With a compliance deadline of March 7, Meta is actively revising its services in Europe. In a recent blog post, Meta revealed plans to introduce user notifications across the EU, EEA, and Switzerland. These notifications will offer users more control, allowing them to prevent Meta from combining their Facebook and Instagram data.

This development could reverse a crucial strategy behind Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in 2012, which was to enhance user activity visibility and ad targeting capabilities. Meta users will soon be able to separate their accounts using the Account Center feature.

Meta’s new choices also extend to Facebook Messenger, where users can opt to disassociate their data from the social network. However, this will require a separate Messenger account, potentially discouraging users from segregating their messaging and social networking activities.

For Marketplace users, choosing to disconnect their activity from their Facebook account will result in losing the ability to use Messenger for buyer-seller communications, restricting them to email.

Facebook Gaming users face a similar dilemma. If they choose not to link their gaming activity with their social network use, they lose access to social gaming features like multiplayer games and personalized suggestions.

In November, Meta introduced an ad-free subscription in the EU, offering users an alternative to its tracking-based advertising. This “pay or agree to tracking” approach has already drawn scrutiny under EU privacy laws and could be further challenged under the DMA.

The DMA mandates that withdrawing consent should be as effortless as giving it, suggesting potential regulatory action if Meta’s approach is deemed non-compliant. EU privacy advocates are closely watching the Commission’s response to these developments.

The DMA’s provisions, including a limit on prompting users for the same consent more than once a year, aim to prevent tech giants from exploiting their market dominance. Violating these regulations could result in substantial fines, up to 10% of global annual turnover.

The broader impact of the DMA, coupled with existing GDPR standards, signifies a significant shift in digital competition law. With Google also detailing its DMA preparations, the landscape of digital services in the EU is set for a transformative change, led by stringent regulations and heightened user control.