Privacy Regulations and Online Search Friction: Evidence from GDPR
64 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2021
Date Written: August 12, 2021
How do privacy regulations in the market impact online search for products and information? This paper investigates the impact of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR for short) on consumers’ online browsing and search behavior using consumer panels from four countries, United Kingdom, Spain, United States, and Brazil. We find that after GDPR, a panelist exposed to GDPR submits 21.6% more search terms to access information and browses 16.3% more pages to access consumer goods and services compared to a non-exposed panelist, indicating higher friction in online search. The implications of increased friction are heterogeneous across firms: Bigger e-commerce firms see an increase in consumer traffic and more online transactions. The increase in the number of transactions at large websites is about 6 times the increase experienced by smaller firms. Overall, the post-GDPR online environment may be less competitive for online retailers and may be more difficult for EU consumers to navigate through.
Keywords: privacy, GDPR, consumer search
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