Big Data and Online Advertising: Emerging Competition Concerns

The concept of big data has captured the public’s attention primarily in regards to its privacy implications. However, the significance of big data in the competition sphere can no longer be ignored. Europe has been taking an increasingly aggressive stance in the big data realm — with multiple recent antitrust investigations into large technology companies and the passing of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation in 2018 — but companies in the United States must now pay attention. This article takes a multi-layered approach to analyzing the competition ramifications of big data, asserting that big data itself has developed into a competitive force within firms. Big data has become, for many firms, a product in and of itself, separate from the firms’ traditional products or services, and firms often believe that any big data they come to possess they can utilize without consideration.

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Hon. Katherine B. Forrest (fmr.)1

I. INTRODUCTION

The informational capabilities and utility of Big Data — defined as large data sets capturing broad and deep information — are fundamentally altering the theory and practice of competition policy and law. While there is nothing novel about restrictions on inter-firm exchange of competitively sensitive information, Big Data allows for advertent and inadvertent sharing at scales not previously available. We have long known that horizontally competing firms cannot share customer

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