Privacy Regulation and Online Advertising

36 Pages Posted: 5 May 2010 Last revised: 4 Mar 2014

See all articles by Avi Goldfarb

Avi Goldfarb

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Catherine E. Tucker

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Management Science (MS)

Date Written: August 4, 2010


Advertisers use online customer data to target their marketing appeals. This has heightened consumers' privacy concerns, leading governments to pass laws designed to protect consumer privacy by restricting the use of data and by restricting online tracking techniques used by websites. We use the responses of 3.3 million survey-takers who had been randomly exposed to 9,596 online display (banner) advertising campaigns to explore how privacy regulation in the European Union has influenced advertising effectiveness. This privacy regulation restricted advertisers' ability to collect data on web users in order to target ad campaigns. We find that on average, display advertising became far less effective at changing stated purchase intent after the EU laws were enacted, relative to display advertising in other countries. The loss in effectiveness was more pronounced for websites that had general content (such as news sites), where non-data-driven targeting is particularly hard to do. The loss of effectiveness was also more pronounced for ads with a smaller presence on the webpage and for ads that did not have additional interactive, video, or audio features.

Keywords: Privacy, Online Advertising, Targeting

Suggested Citation

Goldfarb, Avi and Tucker, Catherine E., Privacy Regulation and Online Advertising (August 4, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Avi Goldfarb

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
416-946-8604 (Phone)
416-978-5433 (Fax)

Catherine E. Tucker (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Management Science (MS) ( email )

100 Main St
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States


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