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FTC official explains why he worries about Big Tech

Rohit Chopra
FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra talks about taking on Big Tech at the GeekWire Summit. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire)

During his first year and a half on the Federal Trade Commission, Rohit Chopra has built a reputation as Big Tech’s toughest critic — and today at the GeekWire Summit, he looked back to a decade-old corporate crisis to explain why he’s being so tough.

“If we can rewind a decade ago and think about the roots of the financial crisis, a key part of that problem was the failure of our regulators,” he said on the main stage at the Hyatt Regency Seattle. “A lot of the smoke signals were there, and there were a lot of excuses and a lot of inaction.”

Chopra, who helped launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the wake of the 2008 financial breakdown that sparked the Great Recession, drew a parallel between banks that were thought to be too big to fail and present-day tech companies that some now see as too big to compete against.

“I see the smoke signals now of really some troubles with Big Tech. … Do we live in a country where you can start a business to challenge them, or do you just have to start one to eventually sell and surrender to them?” he said. “I hope that some of the lessons from the financial crisis do inform how we think about some of these problems in industry structure, and make sure that we are holding everyone accountable, big or small.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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