Should We Be Concerned About Data-opolies?
As we transition to a data-driven economy, we are witnessing the emergence of data-opolies—companies that control a key platform, which, like a coral reef, attracts users, sellers, advertisers, software developers, apps, and accessory makers to its ecosystem. Apple and Google, for example, each control a popular mobile phone operating system (and key apps on that platform); Amazon controls the largest online merchant platform; and Facebook controls the largest social network platform. Through their leading platforms, a significant volume and variety of personal data flows. The velocity in acquiring and exploiting this personal data helps these companies obtain significant market power.
The European competition authorities have begun to recognize this and have brought actions against four data-opolies: Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon (or GAFA for short). (The Economist created its own acronym, BAADD, “too big, anti-competitive, addictive and destructive to democracy.”)
Maurice E. Stucke
Professor, University of Tennessee College of Law; co-founder, The Konkurrenz Group. The author would like to thank the participants of Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy’s Symposium, The Governance & Regulation of Information Platforms, for their helpful comments and the University of Tennessee College of Law for the summer research grant.