January 20, 2022

New Research Paper: The Economics of Personal Information Online

via arXiv.


“Your browsing behavior for a Big Mac: Economics of Personal Information Online” (11 pages; PDF)


Juan Pablo Carrascal, UPF and Telefonica Research
Christopher Riederer, Columbia University
Vijay Erramilli, Telefonica Research
Mauro Cherubini, Telefonica Research
Rodrigo de Oliveira, Telefonica Research


“Most online services (Google, Facebook etc.) operate by providing a service to users for free, and in return they collect and monetize personal information (PI) of the users. This operational model is inherently economic, as the “good” being traded and monetized is PI. This model is coming under increased scrutiny as online services are moving to capture more PI of users, raising serious privacy concerns. However, little is known on how users valuate different types of PI while being online, as well as the perceptions of users with regards to exploitation of their PI by online service providers.

In this paper, we study how users valuate different types of PI while being online, while capturing the context by relying on Experience Sampling. We were able to extract the mone-tary value that 168 participants put on different pieces of PI. We find that users value their PI related to their offline iden- tities more (3 times) than their browsing behavior. Users also value information pertaining to financial transactions and so- cial network interactions more than activities like search and shopping. We also found that while users are overwhelmingly in favor of exchanging their PI in return for improved online services, they are uncomfortable if these same providers monetize their PI.”

Read the Full Text Paper (11 pages; PDF)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.