President Biden Signs Executive Order Requiring More Scrutiny of Tech Mergers and Data Privacy
July 9, 2021
President Biden today signed a wide-ranging executive order with the aim of promoting competition. EPIC has long argued that market consolidation in online platform threatens privacy. The Executive Order aims to address the ways in which dominant tech firms are undermining competition and reducing innovation in three ways: 1) greater scrutiny of mergers, especially by dominant internet platforms, with particular attention to the acquisition of nascent competitors, serial mergers, the accumulation of data, competition by “free” products, and the effect on user privacy; 2) encouraging the FTC to establish rules on “unfair data collection and surveillance practices that may damage competition, consumer autonomy, and consumer privacy”; and 3) encouraging the FTC to establish rules barring unfair methods of competition on internet marketplaces. More than a decade ago, EPIC urged the FTC to block Google’s proposed acquisition of DoubleClick. EPIC said that the acquisition would enable Google to collect the personal information of billions of users and track their browsing activities across the web. EPIC correctly warned that this acquisition would accelerate Google’s dominance of the online advertising industry and diminish competition. The FTC ultimately allowed the merger to go forward. EPIC has since repeatedly warned FTC that other mergers posed similar risks to consumer privacy and competition, including Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp.