It's (mostly) great that Big Tech monopolies are *finally* facing regulation.

There are two bad things about monopolies:

I. They cheat their customers and suppliers because they know they're the only game in town, and

II. They use their money to legalize harmful practices.

1/

Here's a Type I example of how Google uses its monopoly power to cheat: Google controls the ad-tech market they rig it in their favor - they represent both buyers and sellers, and they compete with them, and they advantage themselves.

pluralistic.net/2020/11/20/sov

But Google's ad-tech stack also has a Type II monopoly abuse: the ad-targeting systems Google sells are extraordinarily, harmfully invasive.

2/

They get away with this privacy abuse because they convert the money they get from rigging the market to lobby against privacy laws.

There's a real danger that competition authorities seeking to blunt Google's monopoly will get Type I and Type II abuses mixed up. It's great to force Google to run a clean ad marketplace, preferably by forcing it to divest of the units that compete with its own customers.

3/

After all, it's nearly impossible to detect "self-preferencing" in complex markets - like, did Google place its own ad rather than a higher-bidding third-party because it was cheating, or because its algorithm assessed the third-party ad as fraudulent?

And if so, was the algorithm itself designed to overblock third-party ads as potentially fraudulent while applying a more lax standard to the ads that Google sells - and makes more money from?

4/

The entity that runs the market is the referee. Referees shouldn't also be members of one of the teams. Period. Obviously. I mean, come on.

The problem is that breaking up a monopolist is really hard. It can take decades and cost billions.

5/

So regulators, out of ignorance or desperation, continue to allow referees to have a stake in the outcome, and instead seek to improve competition in other domains, especially Type II domains - those bad actions that monopolists get away with because they're too big to stop.

6/

That's what's going on in France right now. The French competition regulator just fined Google $268M for anticompetitive ad-tech abuses. Included in the settlement - which Google says it won't fight - is a mandate for interoperability in ad-tech.

techcrunch.com/2021/06/07/fran

Interop is a *great* remedy for anticompetitive markets, and indeed, it makes tech a prime target for competition enforcement.

7/

Follow

When companies are forced to interoperate, their "network effect" advantages can be obliterated, by lowering switching costs.

onezero.medium.com/tech-monopo

Interop is a great solution to Type I problems, problems caused by a lack of competition. But it's a *terrible* solution to Type II problems. If a monopolist got away with doing something horrible and abusive, we shouldn't fix that by improving competition.

8/

· · Web · 1 · 2 · 1

The last thing we want is competition in practices that harm the public - we don't want companies to see who can commit the most extensive human rights abuses at the lowest costs. That's not something we want to render more efficient.

eff.org/deeplinks/2021/04/figh

9/

Unfortunately, that's what the French interop remedy for Google does. Rather than abolishing or curbing targeting (substituting noninvasive content-based targeting, reliant on the content of a page rather than the identity of the user), they're helping *everyone* target users.

As Google wrote in its corporate comms about the ruling, it will improve interop by creating a way to share ad-tech data with third party competitors. This is such a fucking monkey's paw.

blog.google/around-the-globe/g

10/

There's going to be more of this. In the UK, the Competition and Market Authority's otherwise excellent report on ad-tech calls for widespread access to "attribution," where ad-tech follows you around forever to see if an ad leads to a sale.

pluralistic.net/2021/06/01/you

There are two kinds of entities agitating for more tech competition and interop. On the one side, you have smaller ad-tech firms and telecoms monopolists who want competition in commercial surveillance.

11/

On the other side, you have public interest groups like EFF, calling for interop as a way to help people escape high-surveillance digital environments by allowing them to take their data with them and maintain their social ties.

eff.org/wp/interoperability-an

Interop can be fully privacy-compatible - indeed, interop can be a way to weaken tech to open space to enact and enforce strong privacy rules.

12/

But there's some forms of competition - competition to invade your privacy - that we should reject altogether, not enhance.

eof/

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