The report also recommends requiring the FTC to collect more data and report on the state of competition in various sectors. And it says the FTC should conduct retrospectives to study whether its past decisions to approve or block mergers were correct. These kinds of studies are also long overdue and would make enforcement officials better at their jobs.
The FTC is currently engaged in a special review of every acquisition by the Big Five tech companies (those listed above, plus Microsoft) over the last decade. That process should be extended to other sectors and repeated on a regular basis.
Lastly, the report’s proposals for how to increase data portability might work very well for simple forms of data (such as a user’s social graph), which are easier to standardize. If consumers can easily take their data along with them, it will be easier for them to switch to new platforms, giving startups more incentive to enter the market.
Unfortunately, the report’s primary recommendations would do far more harm than good. The signature proposal is to force dominant platforms to separate their business lines. Chairman David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat, has called this a “Glass-Steagall for the internet,” referring to the 1933 US law (repealed in 1999) that divided commercial from investment banking.
In effect, this proposal would break up tech companies by separating the underlying platform from the products and services sold on it. Google could no longer own Android and offer apps like Gmail, Maps, and Chrome. Amazon could no longer own the Amazon Marketplace and sell its own private-label goods. Apple could no longer own iOS and offer products like Safari, Siri, or Find My iPhone. Facebook could no longer own social-media platforms and use personal data to target ads to users. The