OECD Competition Committee Hearing on Big Data and Competition
ICLE Executive Director Geoffrey Manne took part in a hearing in Paris on big data and competition before the OECD’s Competition Committee. The panel included:
- Maurice Stucke (Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee and co-founder
of the Konkurrenz Group)
- Hal Varian (Chief Economist at Google and Professor at Berkeley School of
- Geoffrey Manne (Executive Director of the International Centre for Law and
Economics and member of the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee)
- Annabelle Gawer (Professor of Digital Economy at the University of Surrey)
- Alec Burnside (Managing Partner at Cadwalader)
Manne argued that antitrust law is not well-suited to promote privacy rights, which should be a matter of consumer-protection law. As he explained, firms do not need to have market power in order to violate privacy rights and, even if they do, it would still be necessary to prove that such conduct would amount to an abuse of dominance.
He also pointed out that not all product characteristics are necessarily relevant for a competitive analysis: despite the claims that consumers value privacy, there is evidence that consumers are usually willing to disclose sensitive information for a small reward, suggesting that the value of privacy is lower than what it is usually considered. Therefore, incorporating privacy into antitrust has the risk of increasing the level of subjectivity in competition-law enforcement, due to the inherent difficulties of measuring consumers’ willingness to pay for privacy and, eventually, it could prevent companies from using data to actually improve the quality of their products.
In response to the frequent concern that data could be used to monopolize an industry, Manne reinforced Professor Varian’s arguments that data is cheap and can be collected from many alternative sources, particularly due to the massive size of the data-broker industry.
A copy of his presentation can be found here.