Platforms. Data. Policy.
What next for the Digital Single Market?
18 October 2018, Le Châtelain Hotel, Rue du Châtelain 17, 1000 Brussels
"Big Data pushes the creative destruction of capitalism. Data flows, not money flows, will create prosperity in the future as data enable a much more granular coordination than prices possibly can." With these and other key insights into data economics from his bestseller "Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data", Professor Dr Viktor Mayer-Schönberger (Oxford Internet Institute) opened the first WIK Conference, which focussed exclusively on topics of data and platform economics. His keynote set the themes for the discussions that followed throughout the day.
How much do we actually know about data economy companies? It turned out that there is little systematically collected data on the functioning of online platforms and data economy companies. However, such systematically collected data are the basic prerequisite for identifying possible market power, abusive behaviour or an actual need for regulation.
Dr. Werner Stengg (DG CONNECT) presented among other things the recently established "EU Observatory on the Platform Economy", which aims to generate and analyse exactly this knowledge about the platform and data economy. Sarah Wanquet from Liveramp reported in her keynote on possibilities to make the data economy fairer, especially in the area of personal data, which is required for targeted online advertising funding many online business models.
Doris Gemeinhardt-Brenk explained the recently published new policy paper of the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) on "Data as a competition and value creation factor in the network sectors". It emphasises that data cannot be compared with traditional production factors. Depending on the specific network sector, the role of data differs markedly. Consequently, both analytical instruments and any new rules must be adapted to meet the specific needs of each sector. This is the only way to avoid unwanted side effects.
The session on the interoperability of communications services in the new European Electronic Communications Code, chaired by Scott Marcus (Bruegel), concluded that there was no need for action in this area so far. Dr René Arnold (WIK) presented an as yet unpublished study by WIK that empirically proves that consumers use the technical boundaries between different services to organise their social contacts into groups. William Echikson (CEPS) stressed that interoperability requirements have a negative impact on the dynamic ecosystem of messenger services. Anais Le Gouguec (ARCEP) indicated that an interoperability obligation might be useful to challenge network effects of particularly large messenger service providers. However, she argued that national differences in telecommunications markets had to be taken into account. At present, however, she sees no need for action. First of all, market power and abuse by individual players would have to be identified.
The last session of the day, led by Christian Hildebrandt (WIK), dealt with algorithms and their role for online platforms and networks. Ansgar Koene (University of Nottingham) presented the main results of the research project UnBias, which deals with the influence of algorithms on our society. Jakob Kucharczyk (CCIA) took a look at the draft for platform-to-business regulation and focused in particular on the prospective rules for rankings on online platforms. Daniel Richter (Monopolies Commission) and Robert Stil (ACM) pointed out possible new competitive problems that could arise through the use of price algorithms and various possibilities of collusion.
In summary, the WIK conference "Platforms.Data.Policy." made clear that the emerging data economic brings with it numerous challenges for policymakers, regulation and competition supervision.