To ensure that the platforms do not favour their own products, oversight groups could be set up to deliberate on complaints from rivals
a bit like the independent “technical committee” created by the antitrust case against Microsoft in 2001. Immunity to content liability must go, too.
Second, trustbusters need to think afresh about how tech markets work.
A central insight, one increasingly discussed among economists and regulators, is that personal data are the currency in which customers actually buy services.
Through that prism, the tech titans receive valuable information—on their users’ behaviour, friends and purchasing habits—in return for their products.
Just as America drew up sophisticated rules about intellectual property in the 19th century,
so it needs a new set of laws to govern the ownership and exchange of data, with the aim of giving solid rights to individuals.
In essence this means giving people more control over their information.
If a user so desires, key data should be made available in real time to other firms—as banks in Europe are now required to do with customers’ account information.
Regulators could oblige platform firms to make anonymised bulk data available to competitors, in return for a fee, a bit like the compulsory licensing of a patent.
Such data-sharing requirements could be calibrated to firms’ size: the bigger platforms are, the more they have to share.
These mechanisms would turn data from something titans hoard, to suppress competition, into something users share, to foster innovation.
None of this will be simple, but it would tame the titans without wrecking the gains they have brought.
Users would find it easier to switch between services.
Upstart competitors would have access to some of the data that larger firms hold and thus be better equipped to grow to maturity without being gobbled up.
And shareholders could no longer assume monopoly profits for decades to come.