Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

The Ethics of Online Price Discrimination

In the world of online retail, some businesses are presenting different customers with different prices for the same goods, depending on factors such as the location of the customer, browsing history, etc. Some argue that this is unfair; others argue that it maximizes the efficiency of the whole system. On October 29, 2013, as part of Santa Clara University's "IT, Ethics, and Law" lecture series, 3 speakers (and a moderator) addressed the legal, economic, ethical, and technological aspects of the increasingly common practice of differential pricing online.

Differential Pricing (podcast)

Panelist bios:

Kirthi Kalyanam is the J.C. Penney Research Professor and Director of the Retail Management Institute at Santa Clara University's Leavey School of Business. His areas of expertise include Retailing, Internet & Multi-Channel Marketing, eCommerce, Online Marketing, and Database Marketing. Dr. Kalyanam teaches in the undergraduate, graduate, and executive programs, and also advises early stage startups. He is an Advisor to Google's Retail Direct Sales Organization, and he has provided expert testimony in several major cases in the area of Internet Marketing; his clients have included the California Attorney General.

Ashkan Soltani is an independent researcher and consultant focused on privacy, security, and behavioral economics. His research examines the prevalence of online tracking and exposes practices designed to circumvent privacy choices online. He previously served as staff technologist in the Division of Privacy and Identity Protection at the Federal Trade Commission and also worked as the primary technical consultant on the Wall Street Journal's "What They Know" investigative series on Internet privacy. He has also testified on privacy and security related topics in front of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees.

Eric Goldman is a Professor of Law and Director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law. Before he became a full-time academic in 2002, he practiced Internet law for 8 years in the Silicon Valley. His research and teaching focuses on Internet, IP and advertising law topics, and he blogs on these topics at the Technology & Marketing Law Blog and the Tertium Quid blog at Forbes. Managing IP magazine has named him to a shortlist of North American "IP Thought Leaders" each of the past two years, and in 2011, he received the "IP Vanguard" award (in the academic/public policy category) from the California State Bar's IP Section.

The moderator of the panel, Irina Raicu, is the director of Internet Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.


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