Another merger the FTC should block

Privacy and Antitrust -- Episode 303 of the Cyberlaw Podcast

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

This is a bonus episode of the Cyberlaw Podcast – a freestanding interview of Noah Phillips, a Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission. The topic of the interview is whether privacy and antitrust analysis should be merged, especially in the context of Silicon Valley and its social media platforms.

Commissioner Phillips, who has devoted considerable attention to the privacy side of the FTC's jurisdiction, recently delivered a speech on the topic and telegraphed his doubts in the title: "Should We Block This Merger? Some Thoughts on Converging Antitrust and Privacy." Subject to the usual Cyberlaw Podcast injunction that he speaks only for himself and not his institution or relatives, Commissioner Phillips lays out the very real connections between personal data and industry dominance as well as the complexities that come from trying to use antitrust to solve privacy problems. Among the complexities: the key to more competition among social media giants could well be more sharing between companies of the personal data that fuels their network effects, and corporate sharing of personal data is what privacy advocates have spent a decade crusading against.

It's a wide-ranging interview, touching on, among other things, whether antitrust can be used to solve Silicon Valley's censorship problem (he's skeptical) and what he thinks of suggestions in Europe that perhaps the Schrems problem can be solved by declaring that post-CCPA California meets EU data privacy standards. Commissioner Phillips is bemused; I conclude that this is just Europe seeking revenge for President Trump's Brexit support by promoting "Calexit."

Download the 303rd Episode (mp3).

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  1. “. . . to solve Silicon Valley’s censorship problem. . . .”

    Huh, I didn’t know Silicon Valley had a censorship problem.

    1. Then you’ve clearly never tried to post a picture of a (female) nipple on Instagram…

  2. The problem here is network effects. Like the railroad track sizes of old, a single standard that everyone’s train can go on works better for society than multiple companies each with their own incompatible standard. You are better off with the social media platform that has all your friends so you can reach them with rather than having to talk to one on this platform, one on another. The network with more people on it is more valuable.

    This means that like the telephone networks of old, society is better off with a single network that includes everyone, rather than separate incompatible competing networks.

    This in turn makes a regulated monopoly a logical approach to consider.

  3. What ‘Silicon Valley censorship problem?’

    Does that one differ from the ‘Wheaton College censorship problem,’ the ‘Federalist Society censorship problem,’ the ‘NAACP censorship problem,’ the ‘Ouachita Baptist censorship problem,’ the ‘Catholic Church censorship problem,’ the ‘Planned Parenthood censorship problem,’ the ‘Koch Industries censorship problem,’ the ‘peer-reviewed journals censorship problem,’ the ‘Ford Motor Company censorship problem,’ the ‘Fox News censorship problem,’ the ‘Hobby Lobby censorship problem,’ or the ‘Anglican Communion censorship problem?’

  4. Spotify is a digital music service that gives you access to millions of songs – https://thespotify.com/spotify-premium-apk/

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