Benjamin G. Edelman

Associate Professor of Business Administration

Ben is an associate professor at the Harvard Business School in the Negotiation, Organizations & Markets unit.  His research explores the public and private forces shaping Internet architecture and business opportunities, with particular focus on online advertising, competition, regulation, and consumer protection.

Ben is an associate professor at the Harvard Business School in the Negotiation, Organizations & Markets unit.

Ben's current research explores the public and private forces shaping Internet architecture and business opportunities. He has written about the implications of growing market concentration in Internet search and resulting risks for advertisers. Examining the mechanisms that allocate pay-per-click advertising, Ben compared the revenue of alternative pricing rules, quantifying the losses from early inefficient auction systems. He has also analyzed the stability and truth-telling properties of modern online advertising systems, and he designed a simulated bidding environment to evaluate bidding strategies empirically.

Ben's recent online privacy investigations uncovered a series of privacy violations including Google Toolbar continuing to track user browsing even after users "disable" the toolbar, as well as Facebook revealing users' names and details to advertisers (even after specifically promising the contrary).

Ben's work on Internet infrastructure includes devising policies and institutions to mitigate the worst effects of scarcity of IPv4 addresses, the numeric identifiers most computers currently use to connect to the Internet. Previously, Ben flagged systemic flaws in Internet filtering systems used in US libraries and schools , and his software performed the first large-scale testing of international Internet filtering (in China and Saudi Arabia). Ben's empirical analyses uncovered the extent of expired domain names subsequently used for pornography and registered with intentionally inaccurate WHOIS data.

Ben has sought to block deceptive advertising software ("spyware" and "adware") by chronicling vendors' various unsavory tactics. He was the first to assemble video proof of nonconsensual software installations through security exploits and through "confirmation" screens that install software even when a user specifically declined. Exploring the revenue streams for deceptive software, he documented advertisers supporting spyware, advertising intermediaries funding spyware, affiliate commission fraud, and click fraud.

Ben's consumer protection writings include critiquing online "safety" certifications that fail to adequately protect users, flagging numerous deceptive advertising practices, and documenting airlines' false statements about "tax."

As a Student Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Ben analyzed the formative documents and activities of ICANN, ran Berkman Center webcasts, and developed software tools for real-time use in meetings, classes, and special events. He oversaw ICANN Public Meeting webcasts and operated the technology used at ICANN's first twelve quarterly meetings.

Ben's consulting practice focuses on preventing and detecting online fraud (especially advertising fraud). Representative clients include the ACLU, AOL, the City of Los Angeles, the National Association of Broadcasters, Microsoft, the National Football League, the New York Times, Universal Music Group, the Washington Post, and Wells Fargo.

Ben teaches an MBA elective course entitled The Online Economy, a survey of all manner of online business. Ben's teaching includes real-time on-screen chalkboard-style notes using a tool he offers to other interested instructors.

Ben holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Economics at Harvard University, a J.D. from the Harvard Law School, an A.M. in Statistics from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and an A.B. in Economics from Harvard College (summa cum laude). He is a member of the Massachusetts Bar.

  1. Prize in Game Theory and Computer Science : Winner of the 2013 Prize in Game Theory and Computer Science from the Game Theory Society for “the best paper at the interface of game theory and computer science in the last decade” for his paper with Michael Ostrovsky and Michael Schwarz, “Internet Advertising and the Generalized Second Price Auction: Selling Billions of Dollars Worth of Keywords” (American Economic Review, March 2007).

  2. Emerald Management Reviews. Citation of Excellence: Received a 2011 Emerald Management Review Citation of Excellence Award for his paper with Michael Ostrovsky, “Strategic Bidder Behavior in Sponsored Search Auctions” (Decision Support Systems, 2007). The award honors the 50 best articles published by the world’s top 300 management journals.

  3. European Case Clearing House (ecch) Award in the Strategy and General Management category: Won a 2011 European Case Clearing House (ecch) Award in the Strategy and General Management category for his case with Thomas R. Eisenmann, “Google Inc.” (HBS Case 910-036).

  4. Seymour E. and Ruth B. Harris Prize: Winner of the Seymour E. and Ruth B. Harris Prize in 2002 for "The Effect of Editorial Discretion Book Promotion on Sales at Amazon.com" (2002).

  5. Thomas T. Hoopes Prize: Winner of the 2002 Thomas T. Hoopes Prize for Undergraduate Research for "The Effect of Editorial Discretion Book Promotion on Sales at Amazon.com" (2002).