By Kartik Hosanagar
Mr. Hosanagar is a professor at The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania.
March 28, 2019
CreditCreditSaul Gravy/Ikon Images, via Getty Images
“This election season, Americans are going to hear a lot about regulating big tech. Senator Elizabeth Warren has already kicked off that debate, and it would be the tone-deaf candidate who wasn’t alert to the increasing anxiety among the public over the power Silicon Valley giants wield. According to a 2018 survey by Pew Research Center, 57 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans feel that big tech companies should be regulated more than they are now.
A candidate who fails to address these issues in a meaningful way is not taking these concerns seriously. But how should we, as citizens, evaluate these proposals?
Any effort to regulate big tech will have to address two main issues. The first is consumer protection. When the private sector controls so much of our data, Americans should be able to know who has access to this data and how they use it. The second issue relates to “platform companies,” services that connect two or more sides of a transaction: Google Search connects people with websites, Amazon connects buyers with sellers, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android connect consumers with apps, and so on. The concern is that platforms can build services that compete with third-party services running on their platforms, and can easily give themselves an unfair advantage.
The more visible concern is consumer protection, particularly protections for privacy. Any regulation addressing consumer protection should, first, specify whether consumers have the right to access data that companies store about them and whether firms are allowed to share confidential data with a third party.”