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数据经济对反垄断法律书写思路提出了新要求

当今世界最宝贵的资源不再是石油,而是数据

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译者:Jenny_Peng
发布:2017-05-10 13:05:48 挑错

A NEW commodity spawns a lucrative, fast-growing industry, prompting antitrust regulators to step in to restrain those who control its flow. A century ago, the resource in question was oil. Now similar concerns are being raised by the giants that deal in data, the oil of the digital era. These titans—Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—look unstoppable. They are the five most valuable listed firms in the world. Their profits are surging: they collectively racked up over $25bn in net profit in the first quarter of 2017. Amazon captures half of all dollars spent online in America. Google and Facebook accounted for almost all the revenue growth in digital advertising in America last year.

有一种全新商品孕育了一个快速发展且利润丰厚的产业,这使反垄断监管者不得不介入以约束商品流动的控制者。上个世纪,存在相同问题的资源是石油。如今,数据就是数字时代的石油,数据交易巨头们同样产生了担忧。这些企业巨头看起来不可阻挡,如Alphabet(Google的母公司)、亚马逊、苹果、脸书和微软。它们是五大世界上估价最高的上市公司。其利润激增:2017年第一季度它们的净利润加起来超过250亿美元。美国的网络消费额有一半都来自亚马逊。谷歌和脸书几乎占据美国去年所有数字广告的增长收益。

Such dominance has prompted calls for the tech giants to be broken up, as Standard Oil was in the early 20th century. This newspaper has argued against such drastic action in the past. Size alone is not a crime. The giants’ success has benefited consumers. Few want to live without Google’s search engine, Amazon’s one-day delivery or Facebook’s newsfeed. Nor do these firms raise the alarm when standard antitrust tests are applied. Far from gouging consumers, many of their services are free (users pay, in effect, by handing over yet more data). Take account of offline rivals, and their market shares look less worrying. And the emergence of upstarts like Snapchat suggests that new entrants can still make waves.

这种市场地位引发人们对呼吁分解科技巨头企业,就像二十年代早期分解美国美孚石油公司一样。本报(《经济学人》)过去反对过如此激进的行为。企业规模庞大无罪可言。这些巨头的成功同时也是消费者受益。所有人都离不开谷歌的搜索引擎,亚马逊的次日到货,以及脸书的新闻推送。这些企业在标准反垄断审查实行后,也未引起警觉。他们并没有对消费者漫天要价,许多服务都是免费的(实际上,用户也会买单,只不过方式是不断发回数据)。如果考虑到线下竞争者,他们的市场份额并没有庞大到那么令人担忧。此外,新兴创业公司的出现,如Snapchat,表明后来者也能“兴风作浪”。

But there is cause for concern. Internet companies’ control of data gives them enormous power. Old ways of thinking about competition, devised in the era of oil, look outdated in what has come to be called the “data economy” (see Briefing). A new approach is needed.

但是,担忧是有原因的。互联网公司对数据的操控赋予了它们无限权利。所谓的“数据经济”(见简报)已经到来,石油时代产生的对竞争的传统观点已经过时。现在需要新途径新方法。

Quantity has a quality all its own

数量中自有质量

What has changed? Smartphones and the internet have made data abundant, ubiquitous and far more valuable. Whether you are going for a run, watching TV or even just sitting in traffic, virtually every activity creates a digital trace—more raw material for the data distilleries. As devices from watches to cars connect to the internet, the volume is increasing: some estimate that a self-driving car will generate 100 gigabytes per second. Meanwhile, artificial-intelligence (AI) techniques such as machine learning extract more value from data. Algorithms can predict when a customer is ready to buy, a jet-engine needs servicing or a person is at risk of a disease. Industrial giants such as GE and Siemens now sell themselves as data firms.

有哪些东西发生了改变?智能手机和互联网使数据变得丰富繁多,无所不在,价值更大。无论你是在跑步,看电视,或甚至堵在路上,几乎所有活动都制造了数字痕迹——数据处理库里的原始数据愈发庞大。随着各种设备都连接到互联网,如手表,汽车,数据的容量也在增加。据估计,一辆自动驾驶汽车每秒将会产生100千兆字节。同时,人工智能(AI)技术挖掘数据的价值更大,比如机器学习。算法可以预测顾客何时想购物,喷射发动机何时需要维修,以及人类何时有患病的风险。包括美国通用和西门子在内的工业巨头,现在都自我宣传为数据公司。

This abundance of data changes the nature of competition. Technology giants have always benefited from network effects: the more users Facebook signs up, the more attractive signing up becomes for others. With data there are extra network effects. By collecting more data, a firm has more scope to improve its products, which attracts more users, generating even more data, and so on. The more data Tesla gathers from its self-driving cars, the better it can make them at driving themselves—part of the reason the firm, which sold only 25,000 cars in the first quarter, is now worth more than GM, which sold 2.3m. Vast pools of data can thus act as protective moats.

数据的庞大改变了竞争的性质。技术巨头企业总是能从网络效应受益:注册脸书的用户越多,就会有越来越多的人被吸引去注册。由于数据的存在,网络效应更加凸显。一个企业通过收集更多的数据,能获得更大空间改善产品,这相反又能吸引更多用户,产生更多数据,以此类推。特斯拉从其自动驾驶汽车获取的数据越多,它就能生产出更好的自动驾驶汽车——这也是为什么该公司第一季度只销售了25,000辆车,其股价却超过销售额达到23万辆的美国通用的部分原因。由此可见,庞大的数据池也可以充当护城河。

Access to data also protects companies from rivals in another way. The case for being sanguine about competition in the tech industry rests on the potential for incumbents to be blindsided by a startup in a garage or an unexpected technological shift. But both are less likely in the data age. The giants’ surveillance systems span the entire economy: Google can see what people search for, Facebook what they share, Amazon what they buy. They own app stores and operating systems, and rent out computing power to startups. They have a “God’s eye view” of activities in their own markets and beyond. They can see when a new product or service gains traction, allowing them to copy it or simply buy the upstart before it becomes too great a threat. Many think Facebook’s $22bn purchase in 2014 of WhatsApp, a messaging app with fewer than 60 employees, falls into this category of “shoot-out acquisitions” that eliminate potential rivals. By providing barriers to entry and early-warning systems, data can stifle competition.

此外,数据准入也以另外一种方式保护公司受到竞争者的伤害。如果在科技产业中对竞争持乐观态度,很可能导致大公司被创业公司攻其不备,在汽车间或是一次意外的科技转向。但是这两种情况都不大可能在数据时代发生。巨头企业的监测系统横跨整个经济体。谷歌可以看见人们的搜索内容,脸书可以看见用户的分享内容,亚马逊可以看见用户购买的商品。这些企业不仅有应用程序商店和操作系统,还将计算能力租给创业公司。它们拥有“上帝视角”,能看见其市场及其他市场中的一举一动。他们清楚什么时候一种新产品或服务开始受欢迎,然后因此模仿或直接在创业公司变成威胁之前将其收购。许多人认为,脸书2014年以220亿美元收购员工不到60的消息应用程序WhatsApp,属于消灭潜在竞争对手的“枪战收购”。通过对准入设置障碍和使用预警信号系统,数据可以抑制竞争。

Who ya gonna call, trustbusters?

你打算向谁求助?反垄断机构?

The nature of data makes the antitrust remedies of the past less useful. Breaking up a firm like Google into five Googlets would not stop network effects from reasserting themselves: in time, one of them would become dominant again. A radical rethink is required—and as the outlines of a new approach start to become apparent, two ideas stand out.

数据的性质决定了过去反垄断的补救方法无效。将谷歌一样的公司分解称五个小公司,并不会阻止网络效应券土重来:一定时间内,其中一个公司必定重新占据市场主导地位。需要理智再三思考——随着新途径的轮廓逐渐显现,有两个思路引人注目。

The first is that antitrust authorities need to move from the industrial era into the 21st century. When considering a merger, for example, they have traditionally used size to determine when to intervene. They now need to take into account the extent of firms’ data assets when assessing the impact of deals. The purchase price could also be a signal that an incumbent is buying a nascent threat. On these measures, Facebook’s willingness to pay so much for WhatsApp, which had no revenue to speak of, would have raised red flags. Trustbusters must also become more data-savvy in their analysis of market dynamics, for example by using simulations to hunt for algorithms colluding over prices or to determine how best to promote competition (see Free exchange).

第一,反垄断当局需要走出工业时代,融入二十一世纪。例如,在审查并购时,他们传统上会用规模大小来认定当局是否介入。现在,他们在评估交易影响时,需要考虑公司的数据资产规模。收购价格也能释放出信号,从中看出占据市场主导地位的公司收购是否会构成市场新威胁。从这些指标来看,脸书愿意花天价收购WhatsApp,而且毫无利润可言,这其中已经透露出危险信号。反垄断机构在分析市场动态是,也必须要对数据变得敏感,比如,通过使用经济模型,找出勾结性的价格算法,或决定怎样能最好促进竞争(参考自由贸易)。

The second principle is to loosen the grip that providers of online services have over data and give more control to those who supply them. More transparency would help: companies could be forced to reveal to consumers what information they hold and how much money they make from it. Governments could encourage the emergence of new services by opening up more of their own data vaults or managing crucial parts of the data economy as public infrastructure, as India does with its digital-identity system, Aadhaar. They could also mandate the sharing of certain kinds of data, with users’ consent—an approach Europe is taking in financial services by requiring banks to make customers’ data accessible to third parties.

第二大原则是,减小网络服务供应商对数据的控制权,并对这些数据供应商予以监控。加大透明度也会起作用:可以强迫公司告知消费者其手上的信息,以及他们怎样从这些信息中获利。政府应该鼓励新服务,开放政府更多的数据储存库,或将数据经济中的关键部分作为公共基础设施管理,就像印度对其数字身份识别系统Aadhaar所为。同时,政府可以在用户的同意下,强制性要求共享某些种类的数据——这是欧洲在改革金融服务是使用的方法,要求银行将客户数据提供给第三方。

Rebooting antitrust for the information age will not be easy. It will entail new risks: more data sharing, for instance, could threaten privacy. But if governments don’t want a data economy dominated by a few giants, they will need to act soon.

在当今信息时代,重新启动反垄断工作实在不易。这意味着新风险的产生:例如,更多数据共享将威胁到隐私权。但是,政府如果不想数据经济被巨头企业主导,就必须尽快采取行动。


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