Algorithms: How they can reduce competition and harm consumers

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Join the Competition and Markets Authority for this panel discussion with leading experts on algorithms and competition law.

About this event

This event will be streamed live on the CMA YouTube channel.

Misuse of algorithms can reduce competition and harm consumers. In many cases, algorithms are used appropriately and bring enormous efficiencies and benefits to consumers and businesses. But where they are opaque to consumers and manipulate the choices they make, or exclude competitors from a market, they can be harmful. As the UK’s competition and consumer authority, we want to find out where algorithms are being used in a harmful way, and work with companies to address this.

We have launched a new programme of work in the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) led by our Data, Technology and Analytics (DaTA) unit focused on analysing algorithms. With the publication of a call for information and companion paper. You can find additional details of the programme in our press release.

This event will bring together experts in algorithms and competition law for an expert discussion on how algorithms can reduce competition and harm consumers and provide an overview of the work the CMA is starting to undertake in this space.

Our panel:

Ariel Ezrachi

Ariel Ezrachi is the Slaughter and May Professor of Competition Law at the University of Oxford and the Director of the University of Oxford Centre for Competition Law and Policy. He is the co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Antitrust Enforcement (OUP) and the author, and co-author, of numerous books, including Competition Overdose (Harper Collins, 2020), and Virtual Competition (Harvard, 2016). He is the author of the 2019 BEUC consultation paper on 'EU competition law and digital economy' , co-author of the 2019 Stigler Center report on 'Digital Platforms' and the 2020 EU expert report on Digitalisation and Innovation. Professor Ezrachi’s research and commentary have been featured in The Economist, The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Guardian, Nikkei, New Scientist, Politico, WIRED, BBC, and other international outlets.

Bill Kovacic

William (Bill) Kovacic was appointed Non-Executive Director of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) Board on 15 July 2013. He is a member of the Remunerations Committee. He is also the Global Competition Professor of Law and Policy at the George Washington University Law School, USA and Director of the School’s Competition Law Centre; the co-editor of the Journal of Antitrust Enforcement, published by Oxford University Press; an adviser on antitrust and consumer protection issues to various governments around the world since 1992 and; a visiting Professor at the Dickson Poon School of Law at King’s College London. He was previously the Chair of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) (2008-2009) the General Counsel at the FTC (2001-2004) and the Vice Chair for Outreach of the International Competition Network.

Cathy O'Neil

Cathy O’Neil earned a Ph.D. in math from Harvard, was a postdoc at the MIT math department, and a professor at Barnard College where she published a number of research papers in arithmetic algebraic geometry. She then switched over to the private sector, working as a quant for the hedge fund D.E. Shaw in the middle of the credit crisis, and then for RiskMetrics, a risk software company that assesses risk for the holdings of hedge funds and banks. She left finance in 2011 and started working as a data scientist in the New York start-up scene, building models that predicted people’s purchases and clicks. She wrote Doing Data Science in 2013 and launched the Lede Program in Data Journalism at Columbia in 2014. She is a regular contributor to Bloomberg View and wrote the book Weapons of Math Destruction: how big data increases inequality and threatens democracy. She recently founded ORCAA, an algorithmic auditing company.

Christo Wilson

Christo Wilson is an Associate Professor in the Khoury College of Computer Sciences at Northeastern University. He is a founding member of the Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute at Northeastern, and serves as director of the BS in Cybersecurity program. Professor Wilson's research focuses on online security and privacy, with a specific interest in algorithmic auditing. Algorithmic auditing is an emerging, interdisciplinary area that uses experimental techniques to measure the black-box algorithmic systems that pervade daily life in order to increase transparency and accountability of these systems. His work is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, a Sloan Fellowship, the Mozilla Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the Data Transparency Lab, the European Commission, Google, Pymetrics, and Verisign Labs.

Opening speaker: Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive , CMA

Andrea Coscelli has been the Chief Executive of the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) since July 2016. He joined the CMA in November 2013 as the executive board member heading the Directorate responsible for UK merger control, the markets regime and the CMA’s work in regulated sectors. He joined the CMA from Ofcom (UK Communications Regulator) where he was a Director of Economic Analysis. He previously worked at Charles Rivers Associates (CRA) in London where he was a Vice President (Partner) in the Competition Practice. He co-founded the Association of Competition Economics (ACE) in 2003. He holds a PhD in Economics from Stanford University and was awarded a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for services to Competitive Markets in the 2020 New Year Honours.

Discussion facilitator: Stefan Hunt, Chief Data and Technology Insights Officer, CMA

Stefan Hunt is the Chief Data and Technology Insight Officer at the Competition and Markets Authority. He leads a group of data scientists, engineers using rich datasets, writing software or analysing algorithms, particularly relating to digital markets. His unit also includes technology policy specialists, the new Behavioural Hub and Digital Forensics. He previously worked at Financial Conduct Authority, founding the Behavioural Economics and Data Science unit. He is an Honorary Professor in economics at University of Nottingham, has a PhD in economics from Harvard University and has a bachelor’s in mathematics and experimental psychology from University of Cambridge.

Speaker: Kate Brand, Director of Data Science, CMA

Kate Brand is a Director of Data Science within the CMA’s Data, Technology, and Analytics (DaTA) unit. The DaTA Unit is helping the CMA to be more efficient and effective across its remit by building data science tools, data pipelines, gathering and analysing large data sets, and providing technology insight (for example, on merger cases). She oversees a programme of work to understand how businesses use of algorithms can harm consumers and lessen competition and the DaTA Unit contribution to the Digital Markets Taskforce. Before joining the CMA in September 2019, she built and led data science teams across central government.

Background

The DaTA unit is a multidisciplinary team of 35 people that brings together data scientists, data engineers, technologists and behavioural scientists. It provides the CMA with the expertise needed to support its work in technology markets, the analysis of digital competition and working with large and complex datasets. 

Our work also supports our Digital Markets Strategy, including by building our knowledge and capability in relation to how digital markets operate. This work will therefore support our ongoing work in relation to digital markets, as well as our work to establish a Digital Markets Unit (DMU) within the CMA to promote greater competition and innovation in digital markets. We intend to work closely with the ICO and Ofcom, through the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum as we take this work forward.

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