The US Justice Department is set to increase its team of data experts responsible for examining how companies use consumer data to violate antitrust laws. The department’s antitrust chief, Jonathan Kanter, has revealed plans to advertise further job listings for data scientists and analysts as part of the expansion effort. The move represents a significant push by the DOJ to scrutinize digital monopolies and could lead to more aggressive action against companies that exploit customer data to gain an unfair competitive advantage.
The DOJ’s decision to hire more data experts comes amid growing concerns about the power of big tech companies and their use of consumer data. The agency has been investigating several high-profile cases involving digital monopolies, including Google and Facebook. Kanter noted that these investigations require a deep understanding of how these companies collect, analyze and monetize user data.
“One of the things we’re confronting in any market we address today,” Kanter told CNN, “whether it’s health care, energy, consumer tech, enterprise tech and everything in between, the importance of data is so significant, so substantial that we need to understand at an expert level how that data is used, how it affects the economics, how it affects the potential for tipping, moat-building, and other competitive dynamics.”
In the realm of antitrust enforcement, Kanter has proposed a potential future focus on “dark patterns.” These refer to design choices made by a company in its website or product, which are intended to steer consumers towards the company’s preferred choice – for example, agreeing to surrender their personal information.
“It’s really important that we understand the good, the bad, and sometimes the ugly of how dark patterns or personalized targeting can influence how consumers respond when they respond, and the extent to which they are able to benefit from competition,” Kanter said.