Paul C. Bauer, Frederic Gerdon, Florian Keusch, Frauke Kreuter, David Vannette
Did the GDPR Increase Trust in Data Collectors? Evidence from Observational and Experimental Data

Information, Communication & Society, 2022: 25, Heft 14, S. 2101-2121
ISSN: 1369-118X (print), 1468-4462 (online)

In the wake of the digital revolution and connected technologies, societies store an ever-increasing amount of data on humans, their preferences, and behavior. These modern technologies create a trust challenge, insofar as individuals have to trust data collectors such as private organizations, government institutions, and researchers that their data is not misused. Privacy regulations should increase trust because they provide laws that increase transparency and allow for punishment in cases in which the trustee violates trust. The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018 – a wide-reaching regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy that covers millions of individuals in Europe – provides a unique setting to study the impact of privacy regulation on trust in data collectors. We collected survey panel data in Germany around the implementation date and ran a survey experiment with a GDPR information treatment. Our observational and experimental evidence does not support the hypothesis that the GDPR has positively affected trust. This finding and our discussion of the underlying reasons are relevant for the wider research field of trust, privacy, and big data.