Long-term the aim is to find profitable uses for its stockpiled information

The problem with regulating technology companies is that, faced with tough new rules, they can eventually innovate their way out, often by switching to newer, unregulated technologies. The risk of targeted regulation informed by little other than economic doctrines might even be fuelling a corporate quest for eternal disruption: instead of surrendering to the regulators, technology firms prefer to abandon their old business model.

It’s through this lens that we should interpret the likely fallout from the €2.4bn fine imposed on Alphabet, Google’s parent company, by the European commission. It arrives after a lengthy, seven-year investigation into whether the company abused its dominance to promote its own online shopping service above search results. The commission’s case seems sound; the sad fate of small online retailers, unable to compete with Alphabet over the past decade, suggests as much.

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