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Europe shows the way in online privacy

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U.S. antitrust actions and privacy regulation create opportunities for privacy-first innovation

After passively watching for many years as tech giants developed dominant market positions that threaten consumer privacy and stifle competition, American antitrust regulators seem to have finally grasped what’s happening and decided to take action.

This increasing scrutiny, which tacitly acknowledges that Europe’s more proactive regulators were perhaps right all along, is helping unleash a wave of tech startups at the expense of big tech. By holding industry titans accountable over the privacy and use of our data, regulators are encouraging long overdue disruption of everything from back-end infrastructure to consumer services.

Over the past decade, Facebook, Google, Amazon and others have tightened their grip on their respective domains by buying up hundreds of smaller rivals, with little U.S. government opposition. But as their dominance has grown, and as egregious privacy violations and mishaps proliferate, regulators can no longer look the other way.

In recent months, American regulators have announced a flurry of new antitrust investigations into big technology companies. The Federal Trade Commission has voted to fine Facebook $5 billion for misusing consumer data, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee is probing the tech industry for antitrust violations and 50 attorneys general announced an antitrust probe into Google. U.S. officials are even considering establishing a digital watchdog agency.

It’s hard to understand why it took so long, though perhaps U.S. officials were loath to target domestic companies that were driving huge economic growth and creating millions of new jobs. In contrast, their counterparts across the pond have been on an antitrust tear under the watch of European Union antitrust commissioner (and now also EVP of digital affairs) Margrethe Vestager.

Now that regulators from both Europe and the United States are pursuing antitrust probes, they have exposed areas where startups can innovate.

Startups take on big tech

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Microsoft will acquire Activision Blizzard Inc. for $68.7 billion

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Microsoft will acquire Activision Blizzard Inc. for $68.7 billion

Today, Microsoft announced plans to acquire video game maker Activision Blizzard Inc. for $68.7 billion. When the deal is completed, Microsoft will become the world’s third-large gaming company by revenue, behind Tencent and Sony, according to a company statement.

Game franchises from Activision, Blizzard and King studios that are part of the deal include “Warcraft,” “Call of Duty” and “Candy Crush.” Bobby Kotick will continue as CEO of Activision Blizzard. When the deal closes, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming.

Why we care. This is a giant acquisition for audiences and content production. Gamers will have new options as the industry shifts and continues to evolve. Subscribers to Microsoft’s Game Pass portfolio, for instance, will benefit from the launch of Activision Blizzard games into that service. But that’s just 25 million subscribers in Game Pass. Activision Blizzard boasts nearly 400 million monthly active players in 190 countries.

Looking ahead maybe two years or more, the metaverse promises to be an all but limitless virtual reality layer built on top of the internet. Gaming companies already have deep experience with in-game advertising, and the metaverse could take that space to a whole new level. Whether Microsoft has this in mind, we don’t know, but this acquisition boosts Microsoft Gaming’s position as one of the biggest gaming companies in the world.

Kim Davis contributed to this article.


Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. 

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