Information technology multinationals have an ever-increasing influence on modern society. That influence comes in part from data. Facebook, Google, Amazon, and similar companies are “data-opolies”: companies that control a key platform which, like a coral reef, attracts to its ecosystem users, sellers, advertisers, software developers, apps, and accessory makers. Apple and Google, for example, each control a popular mobile phone operating system platform and some key apps, Amazon controls the largest online merchant platform, and Facebook controls the largest social network platform. Through their leading platforms, a significant volume and variety of personal data flows. The velocity in acquiring and exploiting this personal data can help these companies obtain significant market power and profit.
Is it OK for a few firms to possess so much data and thereby wield so much power? Data-opolies are free to users, the thinking goes, so what’s the harm? But that reasoning is misguided. Data-opolies pose enormous risks, for consumers, workers, competition, and the overall health of our democracy. Data-opolies have the power to monetise personal data, influence elections, and control public opinion. The committee needs to come up with ways of regulation this power as well as the use of the data. These ways of regulation should take into account the multinational character of the companies.