Competition and Data

Effective competition is necessary for privacy and innovation. Increasingly the digital economy is characterised by a few companies in dominant positions. These companies are able to impose terms and conditions onto users that exploit their data, and which are detrimental to users’ privacy.

 

What Is The Problem

In the digital economy there is a trend toward corporate concentration. This is true for platforms providing social media, search engines, smart phone operating systems, digital entertainment, or online retailers. Because of this concentration of power users are often left with no genuine choice, allowing for the exploitation of their data.

A vicious cycle is at play: because of their dominance, these companies collect and analyse vast amounts of data. The more data they collect, the better they become at profiling individuals and offering these profiles to advertisers, political parties, and others, as well as using those profiles to improve the attractiveness of their own services. And the more people are drawn into these services, the less any individual user has the power to opt out of the corporate data exploitation model because no equivalent service exists.

When assessing market power, competition authorities have tended to focus on price and outputs. This narrow approach gives little to no consideration to other factors, such as consumer welfare, quality, innovation, and privacy; and the interaction between the different relevant markets at play.

What Is The Solution

  • Assessing companies’ powers in relation to personal data, focusing not only on price, but on quality of service, innovation, and privacy.
  • Heightening control over mergers and acquisitions initiated by big companies, including by assessing impacts on data.
  • Creating the conditions for genuine competition on privacy, where companies compete to provide the most privacy friendly services.
  • Addressing the harm that derives from lack of competition, including by adopting analyses of market powers that take into account societal concerns as well as economic aspects.
  • Coordinating enforcement across antitrust authorities and other regulatory bodies, such as data protection authorities, to avoid loopholes, and a ‘race to the bottom’.
  • Empowering human rights and consumer organisations to question market dominance which negatively affect individuals’ rights.

What PI Is Doing

Effective competition makes sure that companies have an incentive to invest, innovate, keep up with their rivals, and to come up with new and better products for consumers.

Where people have complete and meaningful information about the data practices of their providers, and those practices factor into competition assessments, companies can contribute to job creation and economic growth while allowing consumers to enjoy the benefits of a market economy that serves them instead of facilitating the abuse and exploitation of their data.

PI advocates for meaningful control of the data exploitation industry, explores policy solutions that put people in control of their personal data, and intervenes in discussions on reform of antitrust law and regulation.