US: DOJ antitrust chief outlines role of data in antitrust review

The Justice Department’s top antitrust official warned Big Tech companies Friday (November 8) that the government could pursue them for anticompetitive behavior related to their troves of user data, including for cutting off data access to competitors.

“Antitrust enforcers cannot turn a blind eye to the serious competition questions that digital markets have raised,” Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim told an antitrust conference hosted by CPI at Harvard Law School.

Delrahim did not name any specific companies, but his office is investigating companies including Google while the Federal Trade Commission probes Facebook. The House Judiciary Committee is also conducting an inquiry looks at those two companies plus Amazon and Apple.

“Most notably, enforcers must confront the reality that data insights in the digital economy are combined across the ecosystem of the internet sometimes in ways that transcend product improvement and impact consumer choice altogether,” Delrahim said, according to prepared remarks for a speech at an antitrust conference hosted by CPI at Harvard Law School.

Delrahim said some of the most interesting and alarming legal issues raised by the rise of the digital economy are in the “collection, aggregation and commercial use of consumer data,” which he called “analogous to a new currency” reported the Washington Post. 

He said his office is studying “the ways market power can manifest in industries where data plays a key role,” particularly when large amounts of data are amassed that are “quite personal and unique in nature” and offers insight into “the most intimate aspects of human choice and behavior, including personal health, emotional well-being, civic engagement and financial fitness.

Full Content: Axios, Washington Post

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