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Search Engines and Data Retention: Implications for Privacy and Antitrust


  • Lesley Chiou
  • Catherine Tucker


This paper investigates whether larger quantities of historical data affect a firm's ability to maintain market share in Internet search. We study whether the length of time that search engines retained their server logs affected the apparent accuracy of subsequent searches. Our analysis exploits changes in these policies prompted by the actions of policymakers. We find little empirical evidence that reducing the length of storage of past search engine searches affected the accuracy of search. Our results suggest that the possession of historical data confers less of an advantage in market share than is sometimes supposed. Our results also suggest that limits on data retention may impose fewer costs in instances where overly long data retention leads to privacy concerns such as an individual's ``right to be forgotten."

Suggested Citation

  • Lesley Chiou & Catherine Tucker, 2017. "Search Engines and Data Retention: Implications for Privacy and Antitrust," NBER Working Papers 23815, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23815
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lesley Chiou & Catherine Tucker, 2012. "How Does the Use of Trademarks by Third-Party Sellers Affect Online Search?," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 31(5), pages 819-837, September.
    2. Amalia R. Miller & Catherine Tucker, 2009. "Privacy Protection and Technology Diffusion: The Case of Electronic Medical Records," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 55(7), pages 1077-1093, July.
    3. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
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    Cited by:

    1. Maximilian Schäfer & Geza Sapi & Szabolcs Lorincz, 2018. "The Effect of Big Data on Recommendation Quality: The Example of Internet Search," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1730, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    2. Maryam Farboodi & Roxana Mihet & Thomas Philippon & Laura Veldkamp, 2019. "Big Data and Firm Dynamics," AEA Papers and Proceedings, American Economic Association, vol. 109, pages 38-42, May.
    3. Koski, Heli & Kässi, Otto & Braesemann, Fabian, 2020. "Killers on the Road of Emerging Start-ups – Implications for Market Entry and Venture Capital Financing," ETLA Working Papers 81, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.
    4. David Bounie & Antoine Dubus & Patrick Waelbroeck, 2018. "Selling Strategic Information in Digital Competitive Markets," Working Papers hal-01794886, HAL.
    5. David Bounie & Antoine Dubus & Patrick Waelbroeck, 2018. "Selling Strategic Information in Digital Competitive Markets," CESifo Working Paper Series 7078, CESifo.
    6. de Cornière, Alexandre & Taylor, Greg, 2020. "Data and Competition: a General Framework with Applications to Mergers, Market Structure, and Privacy Policy," CEPR Discussion Papers 14446, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Kesler, Reinhold & Kummer, Michael E. & Schulte, Patrick, 2019. "Competition and privacy in online markets: Evidence from the mobile app industry," ZEW Discussion Papers 19-064, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    8. Calvano, Emilio & Polo, Michele, 2020. "Market Power, Competition and Innovation in digital markets: a survey," CEPR Discussion Papers 14314, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. de Cornière, Alexandre & Taylor, Greg, 2020. "Data and Competition: a General Framework with Applications to Mergers, Market Structure, and Privacy Policy," TSE Working Papers 20-1076, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    10. Jörg Claussen & Christian Peukert & Ananya Sen, 2019. "The Editor vs. the Algorithm: Returns to Data and Externalities in Online News," CESifo Working Paper Series 8012, CESifo.
    11. Ekaterina Prytkova & Simone Vannuccini, 2020. "On the Basis of Brain: Neural-Network-Inspired Change in General Purpose Chips," SPRU Working Paper Series 2020-01, SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex Business School.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • K21 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Antitrust Law
    • K24 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Cyber Law
    • K40 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - General

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