European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that breaking up big tech companies like Facebook and Google should be seen as a last resort, and that the better idea might be to find a way to regulate data usage.
“To break up a company, to break up private property would be very far-reaching, and you would need to have a very strong case that it would produce better results for consumers in the marketplace than what you could do with more mainstream tools,” she said. “We’re dealing with private property. Businesses that are built and invested in and become successful because of their innovation.”
The commissioner, who has a history of being tough on tech, said she prefers taking a surgical approach to the issue of data streams rather than a wrecking ball to the companies themselves.
“When it comes to the very far-reaching proposal to split up companies, for us, from a European perspective, that would be a measure of last resort,” Vestager said. “What we do now, we do the antitrust cases, misuse of dominant position, the tying of products, the self-promotion, the demotion of others, to see if that approach will correct and change the marketplace to make it a fair place where there’s no misuse of dominant position, but where smaller competitors can have a fair go. Because they may be the next big one, the next one with the greatest idea for consumers.”
“The good thing is now the debate is really sort of taking off,” Vestager said. “When I’ve been visiting and speaking with people on The Hill previously, I’ve sensed a new sort of interest and curiosity as to what competition can achieve for you in a society. Because if you have fair competition, then you have markets serving the citizen in our role as consumer and not the other way around.”