Big Data: Agcom, Antitrust and Italian Data Protection Authority launch a joint investigation

Background information/Scenario

The Italian Communications Authority, Antitrust Authority, and Data Protection Authority started on 30 May 2017 a joint investigation with a view to identifying criticalities related the use of Big Data and to defining a regulatory framework promoting the protection of personal data, competition on the digital market, consumer rights, and pluralism in digital ecosystems.

Main issue

Big Data differs from other data for the large amounts of data collected, its constant evolution, the speed of real-time analysis performed through complex algorithms, and the variety of the data. Nowadays, Big Data fosters economic growth, promotes innovative services, and generates jobs and social progress. Nevertheless, it can undermine people’s privacy.

This data indeed represents a significant information asset which use challenges privacy, in particular with regard to “re-identification” practices of seemingly anonymous or aggregated information. Consequently, the potential of Big Data brings about timely and analytic profiling, that may result in discrimination and restrictions on freedom.

The authorities plan to analyze whether Big Data may hinder access to markets and alter competition. The investigation will be focused on the impact of online platforms and related algorithms on competition in digital markets, on privacy and consumer choice, and on pluralism of information.

Practical actions

The information contained in Big Data plays a strategic role for businesses, especially those operating through online platforms. These companies create value from personal information, which explains the importance of Big Data for market competition and pluralism of information.

Companies must be aware that the access to online information is increasingly based on digital intermediaries such as social media platforms and search engines using personal data as a strategic asset. This can affect net neutrality between network operators and content providers, and threaten media pluralism.

We will keep monitoring the joint investigation to provide further practical actions.