Politics

Sen. Mark Warner opposes Big Tech breakup – for now: 'Chinese companies may not be the better alternative'

Key Points
  • Sen. Mark Warner said he doesn't favor breaking up U.S. tech giants, for now, telling CNBC's "Squawk Box" he's wary of having their Chinese equivalents take their place.
  • "These are all global companies. Frankly, to have them replaced by Alibaba or Baidu or Tencent – Chinese companies may not be the better alternative," Warner said.
  • Warner's remarks came a day after four U.S. tech CEOs – Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai of Google and Apple's Tim Cook – testified before Congress on antitrust and anti-competitive behavior.
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Sen. Mark Warner: Users should know what their data is worth to tech companies

Sen. Mark Warner isn't taking a breakup of U.S. tech giants off the table, but said Thursday he's wary of having their Chinese equivalents take their place.

"I'm not in the break-'em-up category – yet," said Warner, D-Va., when asked on CNBC's "Squawk Box" about how companies like Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon could be regulated.

"These are all global companies. Frankly, to have them replaced by Alibaba or Baidu or Tencent – Chinese companies may not be the better alternative," Warner said.

"What I would rather start with, keeping breakup as a reserve option, is, what can we do to add more competition?" said Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a former businessman in the telecommunications industry.

Warner's remarks came a day after four U.S. tech CEOs – Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai of Google and Apple's Tim Cook – testified before Congress on antitrust and anti-competitive behavior.

The more than six-hour grilling before the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, led by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., touched on a wide range of topics, including a fixation from multiple Republican members on the alleged suppression of conservative speech.

The executives defended their companies throughout the hearing against accusations of political bias and unfair competitive advantage in the marketplace.

"Some of the CEOs' testimony was a little bit self-serving," Warner said on CNBC.

But rather than immediately move to break up those tech giants, Warner said regulators should press for changes including increased transparency in how the companies handle the massive amounts of data they hoard from their users. 

"If we had data portability – if you're tired of how you're being treated with YouTube or Facebook, you ought to be able to easily move your data to a new platform and still have it interoperable with those of your friends who remain on Facebook."

"I think we ought to have more transparency. I think you ought to be able to know what your data is worth on an either monthly or quarterly basis, so we get rid of this misnomer that somehow these services are free," he said.

"They take your data, they monetize it – there's nothing wrong with that, but we ought to at least know as consumers how much that data is worth."

"I think there are a series of pro-competition rules of the road that I would much rather use first before I immediately default to the breakup camp."