UK regulators commit to closer cooperation on digital economy

by Jeremy

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and Competition Market’s Authority (CMA) have published a joint statement setting out a blueprint for their cooperation in regulating the digital economy.

The ICO and CMA affirmed there are “strong synergies” between their respective data protection and competition policy agendas and have committed to working together to achieve positive outcomes in both areas.

“Data plays a vital role in the digital economy – from suggesting new music or films that we may enjoy to helping us find relevant information when searching online. A well-functioning digital market needs to preserve privacy and offer competitive online services, empowering consumers,” said CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli.UK regulators commit to closer cooperation on digital economy

“This statement clearly shows robust data protection can support vigorous competition in digital markets, and digital firms should not use data protection as an excuse for anticompetitive behavior. We look forward to continuing to work with the Information Commissioner’s Office to support the development of innovative digital markets that put consumers in control of their data.”

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham added that current data protection regulation is vital to building a vibrant digital economy: “In our increasingly digital world, the links between data protection, competition, and consumer rights regulation make our joint work timely and essential.

“We look forward to continuing our cooperation with the CMA to ensure people’s data is safeguarded, and digital innovation and competition is supported,” she said.

The statement said the synergies between the two regulators could be broken down into three main categories: user choice and control, standards and regulations to protect privacy, and data-related interventions to promote competition.

For example, in the context of user choice and control, the regulators said it was fundamental to both policy agendas, with effective competition enabling stronger privacy protections and weak competition undermining them.

“In its recent market study, the CMA identified a significant concern where social media platforms offered users no choice over whether to have their data used for personalized advertising,” said the statement.

“It concluded that concerns around such ‘take it or leave it’ terms regarding the use of personal data were particularly acute where the platform has market power, such that the user has no meaningful choice but to accept the terms.

“Effective data protection can also support competition as rival companies seek to build consumer trust and confidence in the way that their data is used, and by helping to ensure that competitive pressures help drive innovations that genuinely benefit users.”

In the context of data-related interventions, it further added that differential access to data could distort competition, meaning the regulators will work together to assess what actions will be necessary and appropriate.

Highlighting examples of potential intervention, the statement said it could take the form of, for example, restricting access to data for companies with market power by limiting their ability to combine and integrate datasets.

“One example of such an intervention that was considered in the CMA’s market study is the potential for imposing data silos on platforms with market power to restrict their ability to combine datasets to target and measure digital advertising,” it said.

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