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Why Privacy Experts Need a Place at the Antitrust Table

 |  July 30, 2021

By: Cristina Caffarra & Johnny Ryan (Pro Market)

There is a market power crisis and a privacy crisis, and they compound each other. The collection and cross-usage of personal data by data-driven firms, in defiance of data protection rules, enabled the creation of extraordinary power. Not only is how these data-driven businesses collect personal data often unlawful, but data collected in one part of the conglomerate is often used to advantage other parts, creating cascading monopolies that roll from market to market. Data protection regulators (where they exist) are overwhelmed by market power they are not equipped to confront. 

Yet the problem does not just lie with poor enforcement of data protection rules like GDPR in Europe: it lies also with antitrust regulators who have stayed narrowly “in their lane,” failing to engage with how data is used and update “theories of harm” to grapple with data as the source of market power.

Views that “the pursuit of privacy is not a goal of antitrust, nothing to do with us” and “there is tension between privacy and antitrust” unfortunately still linger, and have allowed antitrust agencies to “look the other way.” Siloing the respective work and thinking of antitrust and privacy regulators has been disastrous.