US: Delrahim says Big Tech probe focused on abuse of data

The Department of Justice’s investigation into online platforms is focused on the possibility that tech firms could use data they’ve gathered from customers to block competitors from markets they manage, according to the agency’s top antitrust official.

“If we found that they had market power in a specific, you know, in a defined market, and they have data that they could use to prevent a competitor from challenging that market? Then that could be a violation, yes, absolutely,” Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim told the Washington Examiner, referring to big tech corporations such as Facebook and Google.

The “defined markets” in question, Delrahim said, could be the search industry or social media. “Our investigation is focused on” the potential abuse of data by online platforms, he said.

Delrahim also noted that the DOJ was “trying to identify what other [harmful] conduct could go on in any of these, by any of these companies.” 

The investigation on the use of data could put increased scrutiny on big tech companies that are already under significant pressure from Congress, regulatory agencies, and the public at large.

“This definitely seems like a trend emerging, of a focus by [Delrahim] and others on zero-price markets and the value of data,” said John Newman, a DOJ antitrust lawyer during the Obama administration and an associate professor of law at the University of Miami. “I think it’s a good sign, and I hope to see future development.”

Full Content: Washington Examiner

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