The central document makes it clear that data is a factor of production. Do we need to start worrying about data being monopolized?

2020-08-12 05:57:44 0 Comment 2680 views

A few days ago, the central government issued a document clarifying the reform direction of the market-oriented allocation of factors. Among them, the

A few days ago, the central government issued a document clarifying the reform direction of the market-oriented allocation of factors. Among them, the inclusion of data in the category of production factors has caused much discussion. Some experts interpret the value of data as “oil”, and this time being written into the central document is expected to promote the process of data capitalization.

But unlike traditional factors of production such as land and technology, the attributes of data seem to be broader. There is also a view that data is more reminiscent of sunlight: many people can use them, but it will not restrict other people's use. From this point of view, data not only has resource attributes but also features of public goods.

So should data be regarded as "oil" or "sunshine"? Xiong Hongru, an associate researcher of the Innovation and Development Research Department of the Development Research Center of the State Council, believes that more in-depth research is needed, which is of great significance for understanding data competition issues.

Data is more like oil or sunshine?

On April 9, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council issued the "Opinions on Building a More Complete System and Mechanism for Market-oriented Allocation of Factors" (hereinafter referred to as the "Opinions"). Data "upgrade" and land, labor, technology, and capital are tied for the five major production factors.

According to Nandu reporters, this is not the first time that data has been included in the central document. In November last year, the Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China proposed to improve the mechanism for data and other production factors to determine remuneration based on contribution.

On this basis, the data is logically written into the above-mentioned central file. The "Opinions" propose to accelerate the cultivation of the data element market, and clarify the three major development directions of "promoting the open sharing of government data", "improving the value of social data resources", and "strengthening data resource integration and security protection".

In practice, how to promote the establishment of a data element market mechanism seems to be difficult to bypass the dataThe issue of right confirmation. Gao Fuping, a professor at East China University of Political Science and Law, told Nandu reporters that data as a production factor is actually to recognize the value of data, recognize that data holders have the right to obtain data value (that is, data property rights), and only recognize that data holders have property rights. In order to configure data resources in a market-oriented way.

But the characteristics of data determine that it is different from traditional production factors, and it is difficult to generalize its nature.

In the past, data was more regarded as a kind of production resource, the future oil, which could be owned, processed, refined, and traded, but now data has an increasingly mentioned metaphor-sunshine. The reason why data is reminiscent of sunlight is that data will soon become as ubiquitous as sunlight and become a critical infrastructure. Many people can use the data, but it will not restrict others from using it.

The reporter from Nandu noticed that two months ago, The EconomistHe once published a special report on the topic of "data is more like oil or sunshine". The article pointed out that the increase in data metaphors in turn means that there is more than one data economy, and the core question: Will one of them dominate?

Xiong Hongru told the Nandu reporter that if data is regarded as a resource, the behavioral data of ordinary consumers may become a resource in the new format and mode of consumption. Once companies have the ability to collect and master large-scale user data, their competitive advantages will be more obvious compared to platforms with a small number of users.

However, "While platform A collects user data, platform B can also collect user data, but the dimensions, methods, and types of the two collections may be different, and the effect of data utilization will also be very different. "Xiong Hongru said.

Whether data should be regarded as "oil" (resource attribute) or "sunshine" (public goods attribute), in Xiong Hongru's opinion, This is very important for understanding the problem of data competition.

Data-driven competition may become the norm in the industry

In the above article by The Economist, the author believes that there are problems with comparing data to sunshine , Such as the limited scope of data opening.

The "Opinions" released by the central government on the market-oriented allocation of factors clarify that it will increase the promotion of open and shared government data. This may be a response to the fact that some government departments still have "information islands" and data sharing barriers are difficult to break.

Xiong Hongru believes that the open sharing of public data in government departments should be further expanded. There are some data that can only be collected by the government. If reasonable and appropriate opening up can bring greater economic and social value, we should explore the establishment of a cooperative development mechanism with market entities and industry organizations under the premise of protecting data security and controlling risks., To release the huge potential of data sharing.

From the perspective of the impact of data on industry competition, data-driven competition is likely to become the normal state of competition between platforms or between companies within platforms in the digital market, and the resulting competition disorder is likely to occur, such as Capture competitor’s data in violation of regulations, and use technical means to block without justifiable reasons.

However, Xiong Hongru told Nandu reporters that considering the different costs of collecting data on different platforms, the differences in the technology for mining and processing data, and the characteristics of network effects and economies of scale in the platform economy, there is a potential for suspected monopoly Be very cautious when studying and making judgments.

The reporter from Nandu noted that the topic of monopoly triggered by data has already attracted attention. There have been many discussions on this in the academic circle, and there are also individual cases at the level of law enforcement. Previously, Facebook, Amazon, and Google had all suspected of abusing the market in the process of collecting and using data.Dominant position was investigated by European anti-monopoly law enforcement agencies. In 2017, in the case of hiQ v. LinkedIn, the defendant was suspected of abusing its monopoly position for prohibiting hiQ from obtaining professional social data on its own platform.

In China, although anti-monopoly law enforcement agencies have not officially announced similar cases so far, it is an indisputable fact that the data competition among enterprises has become increasingly fierce. Therefore, in the process of accelerating the cultivation of the data element market, how to regulate unfair competition and suspected monopoly behaviors caused by data is worthy of attention.

The concerns about data anti-monopoly should return to the impact of competition

When it comes to data monopoly, is this concept rigorous? Does data-driven monopoly behavior exist? Under what circumstances should anti-monopoly laws and regulations be adopted? Nandu reporter interviewed and found that academic circles are arguing about this topic endlessly.

ChineseAssociate Professor Ding Xiaodong of the National University of China analyzed to a reporter from Nandu that some scholars believe that data in the era of big data may constitute a critical infrastructure, so corresponding regulations are needed. Some scholars believe that insufficient data privacy protection may constitute a decline in product quality. For example, they believe that Facebook's improper collection and use of third-party data is an abuse of market dominance.

"Opponents think that there is no data monopoly. Because data is non-scarce, it is not difficult to collect. Companies improving services based on user data may improve the overall welfare of consumers." Ding Xiaodong said .

The reporter from Nandu found that from the perspective of whether data is exclusive, there are already two completely different views on the issue of data monopoly. One side believes that data is not exclusive and has little competitive meaning, while the other side believes that data has a certain degree of exclusivity.

In ChinaAn academic paper by Yin Jiguo, an associate professor at the School of Law of Southern University of Technology, mentioned that when data-driven companies pay huge costs for collecting, storing and analyzing data, they may have strong incentives to restrict competitors’ access to and access to these data sets, or set various This barrier prevents other operators from collecting the same or similar data.

In this case, “companies may use the exclusive attributes of data to implement corporate monopoly or abuse of market dominance, and the anti-monopoly law should not abandon its regulation.”

How to treat the issue of data monopoly? Ding Xiaodong told Nandu reporters that the anti-monopoly law is not against monopolistic enterprises, but against abuse of monopoly status to implement monopolistic behavior. Data openness may cause privacy protection issues, and may also involve business secrets of enterprises. In addition, the increase in the scale of data may reflect the improvement of product quality, which is also conducive to the reduction of corporate and social costs. therefore,The analysis of data monopoly should focus on the analysis of specific scenarios, and should not be treated in a big way.

In an interview with a reporter from Nandu, the executive director of the Digital Economy and Legal Innovation Research Center of the University of International Business and Economics said that concerns about data anti-monopoly should return to its impact on competition and consumer welfare , Back to data processing capabilities and personal information protection.

Xiong Hongru also believes that from the perspective of regulatory policies, more attention should be paid to market behaviors that may harm fair market competition and consumer rights (including privacy and security), rather than just market status.

And he pointed out that the issue of platform monopoly should be treated with caution. It cannot be determined that the platform has a monopoly simply because of the large scale of the platform and the amount of data it possesses. An important reason is that, whether it is in Europe, America or my country, the iteration cycle of new technologies and new models in the digital market is mostly very short.The market competition situation in the domain is highly dynamic, and new competitors may emerge at any time, especially the emergence of disruptive innovators that will break or reconstruct the competitive landscape.

"But this does not mean that law enforcement agencies are left alone." Xiong Hongru believes that the supervision level should continue to strengthen follow-up research, promptly respond to hot issues of social controversy, and at the same time improve law enforcement capabilities and innovate supervision methods. Correct violations in a timely manner and establish and improve a coordinated governance mechanism.

Written by: Southern Metropolis reporter Li Ling