The Market for Personally Identifying Information
Written for Information Policy at UMSI, November 2011

Cartoon Credit: Randall Munroe, XKCD


American citizens are constantly exchanging their personally identifying information for marginal benefits such as store discounts. It has been proven in behavioral economics research that consumers do not understand the value of their information, can easily be manipulated in to relinquishing it, and don’t know what happens to that information once it has been given. Right to know legislation would require data aggregators to be more transparent about data collection and use, but they have been stopped by tough lobbying at the state and federal level. Data aggregator Acxiom has implemented a policy of transparency, leading the field and hoping to have a say in future legislation. Transparency such as this diminishes consumer surplus and makes the market for information more efficient.

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Approximate reading time is 9 minutes (2600 words)
Cara Tip: If that's a bit too long, check out the slides from my presentation