The European Union could soon force web giants such as Google, Apple, Amazon and Bing to unveil some of the techniques used to rank the search results of their services.
According to Reuters, the European Commission is currently working on a new regulation specifically targeting online platforms such as e-commerce sites (including Amazon and EBay), app stores (including Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store) and search engines (including Google and Bing) that will require companies to be more transparent about their methods of ranking search results.
According to this proposal, search engines will have to specify beforehand the "most important parameters determining the ranking," such as the "specific signals incorporated in the algorithms" and the mechanisms of adjustment or demotion of the results."
The proposed rules require a 15-day notice period for any changes to terms and conditions, rather than having a retrospective approach that informs users after the changes have been made. Further, any rejections (such as from app store approval) or delistings, will require specific, individualized explanations per rejection, rather than a list of potential or hypothetical reasons featured somewhere on a page.
The proposed rules are designed to redress the superior bargaining powers possessed by these large internet brands, and to help smaller competitors better understand what they are required to do in order to appear in search results and rank more competitively.
Still according to Reuters, this bill should not force companies to disclose their entire algorithm but they should be able to explain in broad outline "how and to what extent the classification system takes into account the quality of products and services offered by companies."
Further, according to Reuters, where a platform offers services that are in competition with others in the market (such as Google Shopping), “terms and conditions will have to include a description of any preferential treatment they give to their own service including access to consumer data and ranking.”
Before the new law proposal comes into force, it must be validated by the national governments and the European Parliament.
Furthermore, penalties for violations of these regulations are due to get harsher, particularly once the new GDPR regulation comes into effect.
If your business is likely to be affected by the above and you want to ensure that it is fully protected and properly regulated, get in touch. Our team of experts can help to ensure your business is fully compliant.