June 15, 2024

The AT&T Deal Is About the Data

Most of the mainstream media coverage of the proposed AT&T acquisition of Time Warner has missed an important risk. Much of the discussion has focused on the potential market power the combined entity would have to raise prices, limit choice or otherwise disadvantage consumers.

A primary motivation for the deal, however, as readers of Freedom to Tinker well understand, is the desire to access more and deeper data about consumer behavior. The motivation to combine companies is not monopolistic control, but rather a timely effort to become a player in the lucrative, $77 billion world of targeted digital advertising, now controlled by Google and Facebook.

Some media, especially those covering the FCC and FTC, have begun detailing the data privacy issues raised by the deal. Hopefully, mainstream media will soon follow suit.

Here are some links:

BNA: FCC Privacy Rules Could Hamper AT&T-Time Warner Data Mining

Inside Sources: Mega Mergers Like AT&T-Time Warner are Becoming a Problem for Privacy Regulation

Bloomberg: Privacy Rule Imperils Data Riches as AT&T Pursues Time Warner

Fortune: Media Companies Want U.S. to Force AT&T-Time Warner to Share Customer Data


  1. Thursday’s move by the FCC to safeguard consumer data over broadband is a very important regulatory step. Unaffected, though, are the data-gathering practices of Google and Facebook, whose activities are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. At some point, data privacy policy will need to be aligned across agencies, and the FCC’s opt-in rules should be a model for the FTC.

  2. Maybe the DoJ can go the route of the FCC and realize consumer data has value to the consumer it’s collected from and that too much of it aggregated creates too large a privacy risk.