Date of Submission
Campus Only Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
This thesis evaluates some antitrust scholars’ claims that incumbent digital platforms use their market power to undermine the privacy of their users’ personal information. While this argument has been put forward frequently, no empirical work has yet investigated whether technology firms that face less competition offer their users inferior privacy protections. I construct a sample of over 3,000 sites across 74 subcategories of online content and evaluate the connection between market concentration, as measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, and the implementation of six different features which infringe on user privacy. The aim of this investigation is to determine whether privacy, as a feature of online product quality, functions as a form of non-price competition, and thus suffers in less competitive conditions or if privacy is better protected by incumbent monopolists who have the resources to invest in improving it. I find that firms in more concentrated markets implement fewer privacy-infringing features than those in more competitive markets, though in most models the effect is very small. Regardless of the magnitude of the effect, this empirical finding is the first yet produced regarding claims that competition affects user privacy, and it suggests that some antitrust scholars’ claims do not withstand statistical rigor.
Frankel, William, "Privacy as Non-Price Competition: Does Market Structure Predict Data Privacy Practices?" (2021). CMC Senior Theses. 2691.
This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.