Google’s data supremacy: should we be worried?

Andrew Whitby

The beginnings of a debate has emerged, in the Financial Times, between Evgeny Morozov and Hal Varian, regarding Google’s alleged monopoly – not in search, but in data.

Morozov contends [unpaywalled] that Google’s damaging market power is not so much its dominance of search, but its ability to successful compete in other domains using the data acquired through search. This is an important argument: the same argument that was used to justify the EU’s antitrust action against Microsoft (that it leveraged an operating system monopoly to unfairly compete in web browsers).

In reply, Varian claims that data is a nonrival good, and that moreover, Google is remarkably open with its data. That data is nonrival – that is, that one person’s “consumption” of data does not preclude another’s consumption of the same data – is indisputable. But I’m not sure that matters, because it certainly is excludable – that is…

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