Personal data and competition: Mapping perspectives, identifying challenges and enhancing engagement for competition regulators and civil society

This report seeks to map the attitudes and perspectives of competition regulators and civil society across the world with regard to personal data and competition. Specifically, it explores the approach certain regulators have adopted by incorporating ‘personal data’ parameters in their competitive assessments, as well as the challenges faced by them in doing so. Furthermore, the report seeks to identify effective advocacy opportunities for civil society organisations (CSOs), by discussing the various tools they can use to support the regulators’ programmatic work while defending consumers’ well-being in the digital environment.

Competition and data

The report builds on both desk and empirical (qualitative and quantitative) research that was carried out by Privacy International (PI) in 2021. Specifically, PI sent out a survey to several antitrust regulators and CSOs based and/or operating in various parts of the world. The questions posed to regulators and civil society revolved around their work in the digital economy. Regulators and CSOs were asked to comment on whether and how personal data considerations were incorporated into their analyses or assessments, the difficulties faced in the context of their programmatic work, the interactions with civil society and competition regulators, and their views on how further collaboration between these stakeholders is envisaged in the future. In total, 28 organisations (8 anti-trust regulators and 20 CSOs) responded to PI’s survey. The respondents’ programmatic activities cover the following regions of the world: Africa (CSOs), Central and South Americas (Regulators and CSOs), Asia (CSOs), and Europe (Regulators and CSOs).

Following a comparative assessment of the responses received as well as specific material suggested by respondents, such as programmatic work outputs by civil society and regulators, court judgements, regulatory decisions, reports and academic literature, the report reaches a series of key findings and recommendations. As further discussed in the sections below, most of the responses received to PI’s survey suggest that personal data and competition considerations are an important part of the respondents’ programmatic activities, and that these issues seem to not just be limited to a specific jurisdiction or continent. Being conscious of this global relevance of the topic, PI sought to involve organisations from diverse jurisdictions across the world. However, not all the regulators and CSOs that were originally contacted responded to the survey. As a result of this lack of input from certain jurisdictions or regions, the report does not have an equally diverse representation of all parts of the world and its findings are by no means comprehensive.

We hope that the present report will contribute to the global and rather topical debates about the role of personal data in competitive assessments and ultimately further advance the protection of consumers’ well-being across the globe, through a robust and fruitful collaboration between regulators and CSOs.

PI will continue updating the findings stemming from this research. To that aim we would welcome any further input from regulators and CSOs that did not have the opportunity to respond to our surveys, a copy of which can be found in the annexes accompanying this report.