|Insulation: fine for keeping out the cold,|
but not for warding off the competition!
"Digital markets and data: Competition, consumer protection, and privacy concerns" was the topic of the seminar's final speaker, Professor Dr Wolfgang Kerber (Professor of Economics, Marburg Centre of Institutional Economics, School of Business Administration and Economics, Philipps University Marburg). Wolfgang spoke about Big Data, excessive data collection, Facebook's privacy protection policy and the recent CJEU ruling on data transfer from the EU to the US and the inadequacy of the latter's safe harbour rules.
In our culture, privacy is context-specific and depends on many variable considerations. Also, many internet users are unaware of how much information about them is already known by others. Is there a market failure when it comes to privacy? One assumes that an efficient market would offer a range of options for privacy at different prices, but this doesn't seem to be happening. Informed consent would be required, but that assumes that there is true transparency regarding consumer knowledge of the options and their significance.
There is clearly a large problem relating to lack of transparency in the obtaining and use of personal data, particularly from a consumer policy perspective. But what are the policy options? Absence of consumer information about the "price" of data can itself be characterised as a misleading and therefore unfair commercial practice. Consumers are also entitled to more information about collected data, its use, and options for collecting data.
Data protection law in the EU had as its main objective an end to the fragmentation of national data retention policy, the sovereignty of the "consent" principle and the notion of privacy being a fundamental legal right. If there is to be a market solution to privacy and data protection, it will have to be sector-specific and still respect personal preferences and privacy requirements. Internet users may be empowered to sell the right to use their data for currently "free" services for which platforms currently use that information.
There then followed a discussion session, in which each speaker in turn was first invited to pass his comments on the papers delivered by the other speakers.