Antitrust Chiefs Discuss Data Privacy, Competition on the Hill

By: Bethany Patterson

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons warned against adopting a privacy framework similar to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on November 13.

He told the committee that such a law would “entrench the large, dominant platforms at the expense of the smaller competitors and the new entrants.”

According to Chairman Simons, if the United States were to adopt a widespread opt-in consent regime, consumers would likely only give consent to consumer-facing, popular platforms, which would make it harder for competitors to arise.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner agreed with Chairman Simons’ assessment. “We’ve got to be very careful, not only in what we want to accomplish but making sure it’s limited to what we want to accomplish, rather than having a lot of unintended consequences which hurt consumers on both sides of the Atlantic,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner said.

But both Chairman Simons and Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division cautioned that forcing companies to share nonrivalrous data is problematic.

Assistant Attorney General Delrahim said that while the Justice Department may consider it when evaluating mergers, but with other companies “we should be very careful to not force that sharing upon them as the Supreme Court has warned us in the past.”

Though Chairman Simons emphasized that the FTC’s privacy regime that is the “most aggressive in the world,” he called on Congress to adopt a federal privacy legislation.

“If you want us to do more on the privacy front, then we need help from you,” he said. “We’ve done as much as we can do with the tools we have.”

The hearing was fourth in the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law’s series on online platforms and market power.

Photo credit: Jonathan Cutrer (flickr)