Share the Data: Overcoming Trade-Offs in Tech Regulation

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Large tech companies and their customer-centric business models have led to gains in efficiency that have benefitted consumers and businesses worldwide. At the same time, the cross-sectoral nature of these companies exposes the world to new forms of risk by linking traditionally independent sectors, either directly by doing business in them or indirectly by providing infrastructure to third parties. If unmonitored, these risks could accumulate and destabilize the financial system, markets, and, more broadly, societies.

So far, regulators' and legislators’ responses focus on data privacy, antitrust, cybersecurity, and financial stability issues. These issues are not new. European Union regulators have been focusing on some of them for quite some time. The European Commission has announced a major overhaul of the current EU’s legal framework, the Digital Services Act package, which will include imposing rules on platforms indispensable for companies to reach consumers and access online markets. The novelty for 2021 is that the US and China have recently entered the regulatory arena, too. It matters as both countries are home to most of the largest tech companies.

This report summarizes the recent key regulatory changes in the US, Europe, and China. It shows these jurisdictions have different regulatory approaches while being confronted with similar challenges. They all seek the right regulatory balance between:

• promoting market efficiency while minimizing antitrust issues,

• strengthening financial inclusion while ensuring financial stability, and

• improving consumers’ welfare while limiting data usage misconduct.

But can these approaches be reconciled under the umbrella of an inclusive and flexible global framework?

While global coordination seems unlikely on many policy issues such as antitrust or government access to data, it works for technical standards. The coherence they bring to the regulatory landscape will benefit all countries, consumers, and firms.

We identify data sharing as a necessary technical standard to restore consumer choice and strengthen competition in tech companies’ different economic sectors. We define data sharing as the combination of (i) data portability, (ii) platforms’ interoperability, and (iii) data reciprocity.

In highly innovative markets such as those in the digital space, these requirements ensure low entry barriers. They also provide convenient and cost-effective alternatives to customers, allowing them to sanction firms’ poor behavior or quality of services by switching to another. Ultimately these requirements will favor competition, innovation, and consumers’ privacy.

Updated/Published May 4, 2021