Google is changing how search results appear for EU citizens

Ad slinger bends to the demands of the DMA

Updated Google is making some changes to how its products, including search, will work in Europe.

The reason? It is preparing for the new Digital Markets Act (DMA) rules scheduled to come into play in March. Under the DMA, Google is a classified as a "Gatekeeper," meaning it holds "considerable market power."

Changes to search results will be the most visible alteration for the majority of users. Where Google might show a link to several businesses – for example, hotels – it will add a space for comparison sites and a way for users to refine their searches to include comparison sites.

The company said: "For categories like hotels, we will also start testing a dedicated space for comparison sites and direct suppliers to show more detailed individual results including images, star ratings and more."

The result is that some other services, such as its own third party booking service, Google Flights, will be cut from search pages.

Google is also adding choice screens to Android phones to allow users to select a default search engine. The same type of choice might also turn up when you set up Chrome on a desktop or iOS device.

There will be extra consents for linked services – European users can expect to see some additional consent banners regarding data sharing. According to Google, opting out of linking services could result in limited functionality or some features stopping working altogether.

Google has yet to give any clarity on what exactly will stop working should a European user opt out of linking and sharing their data between services. The Register also asked the company if consent would be opt-out or opt-in, and will update should Google respond.

Finally, Google is planning to introduce a Data Portability API for developers to augment the Chocolate Factory's current Google Takeout service, which permits users to download or take a copy of their data from the company's products.

Google was designated a Gatekeeper under the EU's DMA in 2022. The purpose of the DMA is to curb the power of the Gatekeepers and prevent them from promoting their own services ahead of competitors. Other companies, including Microsoft and Apple, were similarly designated as gatekeepers. Microsoft is in the process of making changes to Windows to appease the regulators.

Google said the processes were a work in progress ahead of the looming March deadline. It was also unable to resist expressing disquiet at the changes required:

"While we support many of the DMA's ambitions around consumer choice and interoperability, the new rules involve difficult trade-offs, and we're concerned that some of these rules will reduce the choices available to people and businesses in Europe."

As we go looking for the world's smallest violin, it's worth noting that the revamp will only apply to European users. Other authorities and regulatory bodies worldwide will be paying close attention to how this plays out in the region over the coming year. ®

Updated to add:

"A Google spokesperson told us that: “The banners will be presented to users to make a choice to opt in or not." While Google was not specific about all services, it did give the example of reservations made in search not showing up in Google Maps if the services weren’t linked, and a lack of personalization in a user’s Discover feed should Search, YouTube and Chrome not be linked.

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