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Geoffrey Manne, Ben Sperry, May 29, 2015
Increasingly, people use the internet to connect with one another, access information, and purchase products and services. Along with the growth in the online marketplace have come concerns, as well, particularly regarding both the privacy of personal information as well as competition issues surrounding this and other data.
While concerns about privacy and data are not unique to the internet ecosystem, they are in some ways heightened due to the ubiquitous nature of information sharing online. While much of the sharing is voluntary, a group of scholars and activists have argued that several powerful online companies have overstepped their bounds in gathering and using data from internet users. These privacy advocates have pushed the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and regulators in Europe to incorporate privacy concerns into antitrust analysis.
We have undertaken a classification of the various proposed approaches to incorporating privacy into antitrust law elsewhere. Here, we focus on the two most-developed theories: first, that privacy should be considered in mergers and other antitrust contexts as a non-price factor of competition; and second, that the collection and use of data can be used to facilitate anticompetitive price discrimination. In addition, we analyze the underlying conception of data as a barrier to entry that is a necessary precondition for supporting either proposed theory of harm.