How the Definition of ‘Big Data’ Can Help Assess Barriers to Entry

Big data brings a new challenge for most competition authorities. A series of decisions, such as the Facebook/WhatsApp merger, have faced severe criticism by competition policy experts. One of the reasons for this is that the barrier created by big data is not well-understood.

Commission officials defined big data as “large sets of data.” Our experts argue that the concept of “big data” is much broader: it is the ability to collect and analyse a large volume and variety of data in a timely fashion.

Data can lose its value quickly. For example, Google needs a consumer’s latest search history to ensure it displays the most relevant ads. Search history from years ago – or even weeks ago – may be irrelevant in predicting what they are interested in today. So it is not usually the volume of data that determines whether a barrier exists but the ability to collect and process it rapidly.

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