Ex-FTC chief: Elizabeth Warren right to worry about Big Tech power but wrong to seek break up

Key Points
  • However, former FTC chairman William Kovacic says Republicans and Democrats can find a balance when it comes to regulating Silicon Valley.
  • While against breaking up the tech giants, Kovacic says Warren is right in terms of raising concerns about competition.
Former FTC Chair: Privacy is a bigger issue than antitrust

Lawmakers need to strike a balance between calls for breaking up Big Tech and focusing more on data privacy regulation, former Federal Trade Commission Chairman William Kovacic told CNBC on Friday.

"There's a synthesis of these two positions," Kovacic said in a "Squawk Box" interview. He led the FTC during George W. Bush's presidency from 2008-2009.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — one of the many candidates seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination — published a blog post in March called, "Here's how we can break up Big Tech," which outlined her approach to promote more competition in Silicon Valley.

"Big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy," Warren wrote. "They've bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation."

"Warren is right to raise issues," said Kovacic, currently a professor at George Washington University's law school. "The more cautious, conservative approach from a number of Republicans and some Democrats is to temper the means we could use to address them. That could produce an acceptable result."

On Wednesday, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said on "Squawk Box" that Democrats are trying to "create another utility" rather than focusing on privacy and innovation.

In a CNBC interview Monday, President Donald Trump accused Facebook and Google of colluding with Democrats against him. "I can tell you they discriminate against me," he added, reiterating a view among conservatives that tech companies are biased against Republicans.

Kovacic argued on CNBC on Friday that the extreme views on both sides of the political aisle can balance each other out and find a middle ground.

The investigations into anti-competition practices and privacy will help, he added.

The Department of Justice is reportedly investigating Google parent company Alphabet and considering a potential probe into Apple. The FTC has reportedly taken jurisdiction over looking into Facebook and Amazon.

"The simple fact that we have investigations and maybe lawsuits running by themselves has the effect of opening up opportunities for other companies to participate," Kovacic said.