UK's Digital Markets Unit – the Big Tech watchdog – remains toothless for now but statutory powers due this year

Better get a wiggle on because the work is stacking up, those potentially massive fines won't write themselves

Tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google face fines of up to 10 per cent of turnover if they're found to be in serious breach of new regulations being considered by the UK government.

The proposals – to be adopted by the Digital Markets Unit (DMU), a fledgling division trailed last November that sits within the UK's Competition Markets Authority – would force tech megacorps to follow new rules of "acceptable behaviour with competitors and customers."

It's the latest step in the shuffling bureaucratic process of scoping out the DMU's role and embarking on a consultation process before finally giving it the legal authority to actually do something.

Exactly when that might happen is unclear. The government said it wants to hand the DMU its new powers "as soon as parliamentary time allows" but until then, the DMU has no regulatory teeth.

The exact nature of those new powers – when they finally arrive – also remains sketchy. However, in general terms, the DMU is looking to target digital firms with "deep-rooted market power", subjecting them to a mandatory code to bolster competition while keeping the interests of consumers front and centre.

This could include preventing tech firms from forcing punters to use proprietary associated services, or ensuring third-party companies that depend on them aren't blocked from doing business with competitors.

The DMU could also be given powers to tackle tech giants that change their algorithms or T&Cs, while those who ignore bogus online ratings and reviews to flog goods and services could also be in the firing line.

And when the DMU finally gets the green light, at least it won't have to start from the scratch.

In the last six weeks or so, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has already opened a formal probe into Amazon and Google over fake reviews; launched a broad-reaching market study into Google and Apple's grip on all things mobile; said it will keep a watchful eye on Google's plans to remove third-party cookies from its Chrome web browser; and launched a probe into Facebook amid allegations the social network unfairly used the data gained from its advertising and single sign-on to benefit its own services.

In a statement, CMA chief exec Andrea Coscelli said: "Today's consultation is an important milestone towards building a world-leading, pro-competition regime to drive technological innovation and protect consumers in the digital age. The Digital Markets Unit will continue to support the Government as it establishes this new regime, ahead of receiving its new statutory powers."

But it will need to get a giddy on because the work is stacking up. Last week, the UK's biggest trade union complained to the CMA about alleged price gouging at Amazon.

The CMA just spent the last couple of months dithering over the chippy merger between AMD and Xilinx before before finally giving it the all-clear.

And officials have until the end of the day to make sure their pencils are all sharpened and papers organised as they await "legally binding proposals" from Cellnex and CK Hutchison regarding the proposed sale of thousands of phone masts in the UK. ®

Other stories you might like

  • New audio server Pipewire coming to next version of Ubuntu
    What does that mean? Better latency and a replacement for PulseAudio

    The next release of Ubuntu, version 22.10 and codenamed Kinetic Kudu, will switch audio servers to the relatively new PipeWire.

    Don't panic. As J M Barrie said: "All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again." Fedora switched to PipeWire in version 34, over a year ago now. Users who aren't pro-level creators or editors of sound and music on Ubuntu may not notice the planned change.

    Currently, most editions of Ubuntu use the PulseAudio server, which it adopted in version 8.04 Hardy Heron, the company's second LTS release. (The Ubuntu Studio edition uses JACK instead.) Fedora 8 also switched to PulseAudio. Before PulseAudio became the standard, many distros used ESD, the Enlightened Sound Daemon, which came out of the Enlightenment project, best known for its desktop.

    Continue reading
  • VMware claims 'bare-metal' performance on virtualized GPUs
    Is... is that why Broadcom wants to buy it?

    The future of high-performance computing will be virtualized, VMware's Uday Kurkure has told The Register.

    Kurkure, the lead engineer for VMware's performance engineering team, has spent the past five years working on ways to virtualize machine-learning workloads running on accelerators. Earlier this month his team reported "near or better than bare-metal performance" for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) and Mask R-CNN — two popular machine-learning workloads — running on virtualized GPUs (vGPU) connected using Nvidia's NVLink interconnect.

    NVLink enables compute and memory resources to be shared across up to four GPUs over a high-bandwidth mesh fabric operating at 6.25GB/s per lane compared to PCIe 4.0's 2.5GB/s. The interconnect enabled Kurkure's team to pool 160GB of GPU memory from the Dell PowerEdge system's four 40GB Nvidia A100 SXM GPUs.

    Continue reading
  • Nvidia promises annual updates across CPU, GPU, and DPU lines
    Arm one year, x86 the next, and always faster than a certain chip shop that still can't ship even one standalone GPU

    Computex Nvidia's push deeper into enterprise computing will see its practice of introducing a new GPU architecture every two years brought to its CPUs and data processing units (DPUs, aka SmartNICs).

    Speaking on the company's pre-recorded keynote released to coincide with the Computex exhibition in Taiwan this week, senior vice president for hardware engineering Brian Kelleher spoke of the company's "reputation for unmatched execution on silicon." That's language that needs to be considered in the context of Intel, an Nvidia rival, again delaying a planned entry to the discrete GPU market.

    "We will extend our execution excellence and give each of our chip architectures a two-year rhythm," Kelleher added.

    Continue reading
  • Amazon puts 'creepy' AI cameras in UK delivery vans
    Big Bezos is watching you

    Amazon is reportedly installing AI-powered cameras in delivery vans to keep tabs on its drivers in the UK.

    The technology was first deployed, with numerous errors that reportedly denied drivers' bonuses after malfunctions, in the US. Last year, the internet giant produced a corporate video detailing how the cameras monitor drivers' driving behavior for safety reasons. The same system is now apparently being rolled out to vehicles in the UK. 

    Multiple camera lenses are placed under the front mirror. One is directed at the person behind the wheel, one is facing the road, and two are located on either side to provide a wider view. The cameras are monitored by software built by Netradyne, a computer-vision startup focused on driver safety. This code uses machine-learning algorithms to figure out what's going on in and around the vehicle.

    Continue reading
  • AWS puts latest homebrew ‘Graviton 3’ Arm CPU in production
    Just one instance type for now, but cheaper than third-gen Xeons or EPYCs

    Amazon Web Services has made its latest homebrew CPU, the Graviton3, available to rent in its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) infrastructure-as-a-service offering.

    The cloud colossus launched Graviton3 at its late 2021 re:Invent conference, revealing that the 55-billion-transistor device includes 64 cores, runs at 2.6GHz clock speed, can address DDR5 RAM and 300GB/sec max memory bandwidth, and employs 256-bit Scalable Vector Extensions.

    The chips were offered as a tech preview to select customers. And on Monday, AWS made them available to all comers in a single instance type named C7g.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022