Does Privacy Regulation Harm Content Providers? A Longitudinal Analysis of the Impact of the GDPR

81 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2022 Last revised: 4 Apr 2024

See all articles by Vincent Lefrere

Vincent Lefrere

Institut Mines-Télécom Business School

Logan Warberg

Carnegie Mellon University

Cristobal Cheyre

Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Veronica Marotta

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management

Alessandro Acquisti

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management

Date Written: April 1, 2024

Abstract

While the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has received significant attention in the information systems literature, concerns that it would adversely affect websites' ability to provide quality content to their visitors have not been thoroughly investigated. We construct a longitudinal dataset of news and media websites to study how online content providers adapted their responses to the GDPR over time, and whether restrictions on online tracking enforced by the regulation affected downstream outcomes such as the quantity of content those websites offer to their visitors and visitors' engagement with such content. We find robust evidence of websites' reactions to the GDPR in both the US and the EU, including an initial reduction in the number of 3rd party cookies and intensity of visitor tracking. However, reactions differ between US and EU websites and evolve over time among EU websites. We perform several analyses and use different outcome variables to assess the downstream effects of the regulation. We find a reduction in average page views per user on EU websites relative to US websites, but no statistically significant impact of the regulation on EU websites' provision of new content, social media engagement with new content, ranking in both the short-term and the long-term, or other text analytics. We also find no evidence of differences in survival rates across EU and US content providers, and no evidence that monetization strategies change at a higher rate for EU websites relative to US websites. Although industry predictions forebode dire consequences arising from the GDPR for content providers, the results suggest that EU websites did implement changes in response to GDPR but were able to use data minimization and consent mechanism strategies that allowed them to continue to produce content and engage audiences.

Keywords: European General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR, Economic, Website, Content Provider, Regulation

Suggested Citation

Lefrere, Vincent and Warberg, Logan and Cheyre, Cristobal and Marotta, Veronica and Acquisti, Alessandro, Does Privacy Regulation Harm Content Providers? A Longitudinal Analysis of the Impact of the GDPR (April 1, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4239013 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4239013

Vincent Lefrere

Institut Mines-Télécom Business School ( email )

9 rue Charles Fourier
Evry, 91011
France

Logan Warberg

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

Cristobal Cheyre

Cornell University, Ithaca, New York ( email )

New York
United States

Veronica Marotta

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management ( email )

19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

Alessandro Acquisti (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-9853 (Phone)
412-268-5339 (Fax)

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