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Who Benefits From Online Privacy?

When firms can identify their past customers, they may use information about purchase histories in order to price discriminate. We present a model with a monopolist and a continuum of heterogeneous consumers, where consumers can opt out from being identified, possibly at a cost. We find that when consumers can costlessly opt out, they all individually choose privacy, which results in the highest profit for the monopolist. In fact, all consumers are better off when opting out is costly. When valuations are uniformly distributed, social surplus is non-monotonic in the cost of opting out and is highest when opting out is prohibitively costly. We introduce the notion of a privacy gatekeeper --- a third party that is able to act as a privacy conduit and set the cost of opting out. We prove that the privacy gatekeeper only charges the firm in equilibrium, making privacy costless to consumers.

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File URL: http://www.netinst.org/Taylor_Wagman_08-26.pdf
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Paper provided by NET Institute in its series Working Papers with number 08-26.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:0826
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.NETinst.org/

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  1. Schmidt Klaus M., 1993. "Commitment through Incomplete Information in a Simple Repeated Bargaining Game," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 114-139, June.
  2. Martin L. Weitzman, 1980. "The "Ratchet Principle" and Performance Incentives," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 11(1), pages 302-308, Spring.
  3. Stole, Lars A., 2007. "Price Discrimination and Competition," Handbook of Industrial Organization, Elsevier.
  4. Alessandro Acquisti & Hal R. Varian, 2002. "Contidioning Prices on Purchase History," Microeconomics 0210001, EconWPA.
  5. Salant, Stephen W, 1989. "When Is Inducing Self-selection Suboptimal for a Monopolist?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 104(2), pages 391-97, May.
  6. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1997. "Upgrades, Trade-Ins and BuyBacks," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1803, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  7. Sue H. Mialon, 2008. "The Effects of the Fourth Amendment: An Economic Analysis," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(1), pages 22-44, May.
  8. Giacomo Calzolari & Alessandro Pavan, 2004. "On the Optimality of Privacy in Sequential Contracting," Discussion Papers 1394, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  9. Hart, Oliver D & Tirole, Jean, 1988. "Contract Renegotiation and Coasian Dynamics," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(4), pages 509-40, October.
  10. Yongmin Chen, 2006. "Marketing Innovation," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(1), pages 101-123, 03.
  11. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1999. "Customer Poaching and Brand Switching," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1871, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  12. Yongmin Chen, 1997. "Paying Customers to Switch," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(4), pages 877-897, December.
  13. Stokey, Nancy L, 1979. "Intertemporal Price Discrimination," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 355-71, August.
  14. J. Miguel Villas-Boas, 1999. "Dynamic Competition with Customer Recognition," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 30(4), pages 604-631, Winter.
  15. Taylor, Curtis R., 2000. "Supplier Surfing: Competition and Consumer Behavior in Subscription Markets," Working Papers 00-12, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  16. Curtis R. Taylor, 2004. "Consumer Privacy and the Market for Customer Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(4), pages 631-650, Winter.
  17. Freixas, Xavier & Guesnerie, Roger & Tirole, Jean, 1985. "Planning under Incomplete Information and the Ratchet Effect," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(2), pages 173-91, April.
  18. Greg Shaffer & Z. John Zhang, 2000. "Pay to Switch or Pay to Stay: Preference-Based Price Discrimination in Markets with Switching Costs," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 9(3), pages 397-424, 06.
  19. J. Miguel Villas-Boas, 2004. "Price Cycles in Markets with Customer Recognition," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(3), pages 486-501, Autumn.
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