Statistical Estimation with Strategic Data Sources in Competitive Settings

Tyler Westenbroek, Roy Dong, Lillian J. Ratliff, S. Shankar Sastry

In this paper, we introduce a preliminary model for interactions in the data market. Recent research has shown ways in which a data aggregator can design mechanisms for users to ensure the quality of data, even in situations where the users are effort-averse (i.e. prefer to submit lower-quality estimates) and the data aggregator cannot observe the effort exerted by the users (i.e. the contract suffers from the principal-agent problem). However, we have shown that these mechanisms often break down in more realistic models, where multiple data aggregators are in competition. Under minor assumptions on the properties of the statistical estimators in use by data aggregators, we show that there is either no Nash equilibrium, or there is an infinite number of Nash equilibrium. In the latter case, there is a fundamental ambiguity in who bears the burden of incentivizing different data sources. We are also able to calculate the price of anarchy, which measures how much social welfare is lost between the Nash equilibrium and the social optimum, i.e. between non-cooperative strategic play and cooperation.

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