Are Privacy and Antitrust on a Collision Course?
Harmful dominance, democratic privacy controls, interop and illegitimate greatness.
In “The New Antitrust/Data Privacy Law Interface,” Temple Law’s Erika M Douglas presents a fascinating look at the tensions between privacy and competition.
It’s only fitting that Douglas published her paper in the Yale Law Journal, as that’s the same journal that kickstarted the modern antitrust revolution when it published Lina Khan’s “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” while she was a law student.
Douglas rightly points out that there are many ways in which competition and privacy are in tension with one another (and sometimes, they’re in out-and-out conflict).
Take the fight over Google’s war on third-party cookie-tracking. Google is a vertically integrated monopolist that dominates browsing, search, ads, tracking, and (to a lesser extent) display ads.
Google has taken (and proposed) aggressive steps that would prevent third parties from tracking you as you use the internet. Ad-tech bottom-feeders call this anticompetitive and argue that Google isn’t interested in defending your privacy — it’s defending its turf.
They’re right! Google doesn’t want to defend you from Google. It wants to defend you from everyone else. Google wants to spy on you all the time. Even Google execs in charge of location services can’t figure out how to opt out of location tracking.
It’s a brazen version of consent theater: “Sure, you ticked eleven boxes telling us not to record or mine your location data, but you missed the one we put in a locked file-drawer in a disused lavatory with a sign reading BEWARE OF THE LEOPARD.”
But just because Google privacywashes its anticompetitive conduct, it doesn’t necessarily…