Frank Pasquale Speaks at FTC Hearing on Privacy, Big Data, and Competition

Professor of Law at the University of Maryland and EPIC Advisor Frank Pasquale was a panelist during the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hearing on “Privacy, Big Data, and Competition” at American University Washington College of Law. The purpose of the hearings was to “examine the role that data play in competition and innovation.”

Questions the FTC considered

Prior to the hearing, the Commission published the following questions for consideration on

  1. What is “big data”? Is there an important technical or policy distinction to be drawn between data and big data?
  2. How have developments involving data – data resources, analytic tools, technology, and business models – changed the understanding and use of personal or commercial information or sensitive data?
  3. Does the importance of data – or large, complex data sets comprising personal or commercial information – in a firm’s ordinary course operations change how the FTC should analyze mergers or firm conduct? If so, how? Does data differ in importance from other assets in assessing firm or industry conduct?
  4. What structural, behavioral or conduct remedies should the FTC consider when remedying antitrust harm in a market or industry where data or personal or commercial information are a significant product or a key competitive input?
  5. Are there policy recommendations that would facilitate competition in markets involving data or personal or commercial information that the FTC should consider?
  6. Do the presence of personal information or privacy concerns inform or change competition analysis?
  7. How do state, federal, and international privacy laws and regulations, adopted to protect data and consumers, affect competition, innovation, and product offerings in the United States and abroad?

Pasquale’s Insights

In trying to determine criteria for how to balance the interests of consumers and companies, Pasquale suggested one good starting point. “A simple rule would be, anything I upload, I could download back.” Pasquale said. He refers to his book The Black Box Society in which he discusses hidden algorithms tracking many parts of our lives and secret ways this information is being used. Listen to an interview with Pasquale as he explains in more detail below. Watch the entire FTC hearing here.

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