The collection and use of consumer data, along with privacy, should be considered antitrust concerns, Department of Justice antitrust chief Makan Delrahim said Friday.
In a speech at Harvard Delrahim effectively sent a direct message to tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon that collect troves of data and insights on customers and users, and the use that data to expand and refine their products. Critics of the data collection policies of the big companies argue that data is a “barrier to entry” for small startups, and that tech incumbents have no reason to innovate or change the way they handle privacy concerns.
Delrahim’s message was simple: he’s not buying the idea that just because a product is free, it’s always the best choice for consumers.
It’s yet to be seen whether Justice Department regulators can quantify the ways data plays into consumer welfare in a way that would bring any major companies to heel, but it’s notable that the agency is thinking about it.