Alessandro Acquisti (Carnegie Mellon USA ) will participate in a seminar at Telecom ParisTech ( Paris, rue Barrault 75013, Room B002) June 22 at 2 pm. His article co-written with Curtis R. Taylor and Liad Wagman is entitled Economics of privacy.
This article summarizes and draws connections among diverse streams of theoretical and empirical research on the economics of privacy. We focus on the economic value and consequences of protecting and disclosing personal information, and on consumers’ understanding and decisions regarding the trade-offs associated with the privacy and the sharing of personal data. We highlight how the economic analysis of privacy evolved over time, as advancements in information technology raised increasingly nuanced and complex issues associated with the protection and sharing of personal information. We find and highlight three themes that connect diverse insights from the literature. First, characterizing a single unifying economic theory of privacy is hard, because privacy issues of economic relevance arise in widely diverse contexts. Second, there are theoretical and empirical situations where the protection of privacy can both enhance, and detract from, individual and societal welfare. Third, in digital economies, consumers’ ability to make informed decisions about their privacy is severely hindered, because consumers are often in a position of imperfect or asymmetric information regarding when their data is collected, for what purposes, and with what consequences. We conclude the article by highlighting some of the ongoing issues in the privacy debate of interest to economists.