Do Consumers Benefit from Selling their Data? The Economic Impact of Personal Data Brokers on Digital Markets

96 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2018 Last revised: 19 Dec 2023

See all articles by Jan Kraemer

Jan Kraemer

University of Passau; Center on Regulation in Europe (CERRE)

Daniel Schnurr

University of Regensburg

Bastian Haberer

University of Passau

Date Written: December 1, 2023


Personal data brokers (PDBs) enable personal data markets by offering consumers financial rewards for the data that they have created at online content and service providers (CSPs) as a by-product of their usage of these services. Policymakers view PDBs as a promising building block for empowering users in the digital economy and have facilitated their emergence through new privacy rights such as a right for data portability. We develop a game-theoretic model to investigate the impact of PDBs on market outcomes and consumer surplus. We identify and characterize three strategic effects – the competition effect, displacement effect, and appropriation effect – that govern a CSP’s strategic response to the advent of a PDB. Across several model variants, we find that in markets with a PDB, two main equilibrium outcomes exist. First, a minimum income equilibrium, in which the market for personal data fails. In this equilibrium the PDB only pays a minimal reward to consumers and the CSP strategically lowers its service quality, leaving consumers always worse off than without a PDB. Second, a positive income equilibrium, where the PDB pays a significant reward to consumers and the CSP’s quality may be higher or lower, depending on the PDB’s efficiency in generating data revenue. A market for personal data can only exist under a positive income equilibrium, but even then consumers only benefit if the PDB is very efficient such that the industry’s overall data revenues are higher than without the PDB. We explore several complementary policy interventions, such as increasing the scope of data portability, a Do-Not-Sell-My-Data regulation and information campaigns, but find that these are unlikely to rectify the market failure. Thus, our results bear important managerial and policy implications for data-driven business models and the regulation of the data economy.

Keywords: data brokers, personal information management systems, data portability, quality of online services, information intermediaries, data-driven business models, data economy, digital policy

Suggested Citation

Kraemer, Jan and Schnurr, Daniel and Haberer, Bastian, Do Consumers Benefit from Selling their Data? The Economic Impact of Personal Data Brokers on Digital Markets (December 1, 2023). TPRC 46: The 46th Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy 2018, Available at SSRN: or

Jan Kraemer (Contact Author)

University of Passau ( email )

Chair of Internet and Telecommunications Business
Dr.-Hans-Kapfinger-Str. 12
Passau, D-94036
+498515092580 (Phone)
+498525092582 (Fax)


Center on Regulation in Europe (CERRE) ( email )

Rue de l'Industrie 42
Brussels, 1040

Daniel Schnurr

University of Regensburg ( email )

Bajuwarenstrasse 4
Regensburg, 93040

Bastian Haberer

University of Passau ( email )

Dr.-Hans-Kapfinger-Str. 12
Passau, 94032

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