Competition in a Big Data World

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In her opening keynote for DLD16, Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition, talks about the challenges in a global and increasingly data-driven economy. How to ensure a fair competition, balance international regulations and protect civil rights?

Competition is a strong motor for innovation. It ensures that new ideas and innovative services will emerge and have a fair chance on the market. Therefore a main aim of competition is keeping markets open, Vestager explains.

If competition is significantly reduced for example by a merger that leads to a monopoly, we can witness higher prices, a decrease of quality and lesser choice. The same is true for technology markets, but with a much higher pace of change.

So how can we ensure a fair competition? How can consumers' rights be protected? Consumers are increasingly worried about their privacy. Less than 25% trust companies to protect their private data. Privacy is a fundamental right. On the other hand, there are enormous benefits in sharing information. So there is a balance to be struck here.

Today, we have enormously powerful tools that seem to be free, but customers pay for them with their private information. However: What is the exchange rate? How much data should you give up to watch a movie or use a translation tool?

"We need to restore the playing field." For Vestager, it is not a question to leave to the competition. We need to have the right protection rules in place.

Companies that collect huge amounts of data can cut costs and are able to serve customers better. However, if just a few companies control the data, they might gain the power to drive rivals out of the market.

We do not need a completely new rulebook, Vestager points out, but we have to pay attention and also communicate and cooperate with others to decide when it is necessary to take action. It is essential to keep the markets open and the playing field level to enable entrepreneurs and innovation.