January 16, 2019
Mar 13 2019

The Impact of European Privacy Policy

12:00 pm — Cotting House Conference Room, HBS

Digital Seminar Series: Garrett Johnson, Questrom School of Business at Boston University. This event is open to faculty, doctoral students, and academic researchers. 

The Impact of European Privacy Policy

Abstract: In May 2018, the European Union began enforcing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which endowed new personal data rights to EU citizens and imposed new responsibilities on firms. Privacy regulation increases the firm’s cost of collecting consumer data which may reduce matches with consumers as well as data sharing and even competition between firms. We take a broad look at the online impact of the GDPR by examining changes in online web traffic and sales, third party tracking on websites, as well as competition in selling online ads. Using a panel of over 2000 online publishers and e-commerce sites, we find no significant decrease in recorded site visits or conversions in the short run. Second, we measure user data collection in the form of 3rd party interactions (e.g. cookies) in a panel of over 28,000 primarily European top websites. We find a 14% reduction in third party interactions the week after enforcement, but that fully erodes after 6 months. Finally, across a third panel of over 100,000 sites, we look for evidence that the GDPR has reduced the number of ad sellers with which websites are willing to work. We find no evidence of a reduction in website’s self-reported ad selling partners. In sum, we find a muted online response to the GDPR early on, prior to significant enforcement actions.

A buffet lunch will be available at 11:45 a.m. The talk will begin at 12:00 p.m.


  • Garrett Johnson

    Garrett is an assistant professor of marketing at Questrom School of Business at Boston University.

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