Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 40 Number 2 2023 pp. 366-400

Who Should Own the Data? The Impact of Data Ownership Shift from the Service Provider to Consumers

Li, Shilei, Liu, Yang, and Feng, Juan


With the wide use of information technologies including Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI), consumers’ personal actions (their search history, transaction records, click-through behaviors, etc.) can be tracked, recorded and analyzed by the service provider (e.g., Google) to provide personalized services. Under the current regime, consumers usually hand over their personal data for free in exchange for high-quality services. As it becomes more and more commonly accepted that “data is property,” should consumers be entitled to claim their property rights over their personal data? New technologies emerge to empower consumers to control their own data, and the service provider may need to compensate for the usage of such data. How consumers and the service provider should react to such technologies, however, is not clear. We build a theoretical model in which consumers have different sensitivities towards their data ownership. We show that the impact of the data ownership shift depends not only on the service provider’s revenue structure and the discount in the service quality offered to non-data-providing consumers, but also on whether and how consumers are compensated. More importantly, if the service provider can endogenously adjust the qualities of services provided to consumers, the shift of data ownership may not necessarily benefit consumers, or harm the service provider. We also offer guidelines for data regulation policy designs.

Key words and phrases: Data ownership, service industry, service quality, data compensation, data regulation, data as property, empowering consumers, service providers, online services