Microsoft is willing to give ground in its takeover of LinkedIn, as the European Commission appears more willing than the US to consider control over personal data an antitrust issue.
According to Reuters, EC officials expressed concern last week to Microsoft about its proposed acquisition of the professional networking firm.
In a recent speech, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager highlighted how acquiring user data, or even data from objects such as connected cars, can be central to M&A activity, and hence within her remit.
The Commission is due to rule on the deal by 6 December. It will seek feedback from rivals and customers before deciding whether to accept Microsoft’s concessions. Alternatively, it could push the US firm to give more ground, or open a full investigation.
Salesforce, an unsuccessful rival bidder for LinkedIn, has urged the EC to dig further into Microsoft’s proposed acquisition. CEO Marc Benioff told Re/code he pressed the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the deal, but the agency declined.
Benioff argues the acquisition is anticompetitive because Microsoft can restrict access to LinkedIn’s data, making life difficult for rivals (including Salesforce).
“Margrethe Vestager needs to make a decision on what does this mean for the ability for companies to trade in data, and we’ve seen that companies are acquiring companies to potentially create proprietary data streams to create barriers of competition, so if the US government isn’t going to look at that then another government will have to,” the Salesforce chief told Re/code.
Typically, the FTC focuses on consumer protection, in regard to privacy, when it considers data in a takeover, not looking from an antitrust angle. The agency said it has never challenged a deal on the grounds of anticompetitive practice over user data.