German Authorities Wrong to Muddle Data Privacy and Antitrust, Says Leading Tech Policy Think Tank

February 7, 2019

WASHINGTON—In response to the German competition authority’s ruling that Facebook’s data practices have abused market dominance, and prohibiting the company from combining and using user data from different sources, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the world’s leading think tank for science and technology policy, released the following statement from its president, Rob Atkinson:

The German ruling against Facebook’s data practices   establishes a troubling precedent for the respective roles of privacy and antitrust policy in Europe. Antitrust enforcement is not the appropriate remedy for data privacy complaints. The European Union created the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) dedicated to data protection – it should be able to handle privacy concerns without being propped up by competition authorities.

Further, questions around the antitrust implications of the use of data in the digital economy should be directed to the European Union, rather than member states. Investigations by national regulators will result in dozens of interpretations of how companies can process data, undermining the progress toward integrating Europe’s Digital Single Market.

Competition authorities do have a role to play in overseeing anticompetitive behavior. But Facebook is not a monopoly in the actual relevant market, the ad market, or even in the social networks market. Rather than an abuse of dominance investigation, this ruling represents a power grab by German authorities that will create confusion throughout the European Union and roll back the hard-won gains the European Commission has made in moving toward the Digital Single Market.