Alessandro Acquisti is a professor of Information Technology and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College, the co-director of the CMU Center for Behavioral Decision Research (CBDR) and a member of the Carnegie Mellon CyLab and the CyLab Usability, Privacy, and Security (CUPS) lab. His research combines economics, decision research, and data mining to investigate the role of privacy in a digital society. His studies have spearheaded the economic analysis of privacy, the application of behavioral economics to the understanding of consumer privacy valuations and decision-making, and the investigation of privacy and personal disclosures in online social networks. Acquisti's work has been published in several journals, including Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and Journal of Economic Literature. His research has been featured in media outlets around the world, including The Economist, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. In a previous life, he has been a soundtrack composer and a motorcycle racer (USGPRU).

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Alessandro Acquisti
Alessandro Acquisti's Heinz College Page


2003 Ph.D., Information Management and Systems, UC Berkeley

2001 M.I.M.S., Information Management and Systems, UC Berkeley

1999 M.Sc., Econometrics and Mathematical Economics, London School of Economics

1999 M.Litt., Economics, Trinity College Dublin

Media mentions

The Wall Street Journal

Acquisti quoted on facial recognition

CyLab’s Alessandro Acquisti was quoted in The Wall Street Journal on privacy concerns about facial recognition and Facebook’s announcement that it is shutting down its facial-recognition system in the coming weeks.

CyLab Security and Privacy Institute

Are the recent Facebook revelations a “privacy Chernobyl?”

CyLab’s Alessandro Acquisti shares his thoughts around the privacy issues Facebook is facing today.

CyLab Security and Privacy Institute

Misconceptions plague security and privacy tools

According to a new study out of CyLab, people hold a myriad of misconceptions about the security and privacy tools out there meant to help protect our privacy and online security.


Acquisti quoted on changes to TikTok’s privacy policy

CyLab’s Alessandro Acquisti was quoted in TIME on the potential implications of new changes to TikTok’s privacy policy.

CyLab Security and Privacy Institute

Ads may not provide benefits companies say they do

A recent study by researchers in Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab and Heinz College tests claims by the advertising industry that online ads help consumers find better, cheaper products faster.

CyLab Security and Privacy Institute

Three CyLab papers presented at the FTC’s PrivacyCon 2020

Three CyLab papers were presented at this year’s PrivacyCon, focusing on privacy and security nutrition labels, making privacy choices easier, and perceptions of advanced video analytics.

CyLab Security and Privacy Institute

How much control are people willing to grant to a personal privacy assistant?

In a new study presented at the CHI 2020 conference, CyLab researchers sought to find out how much autonomy people would feel comfortable giving to a personalized privacy assistant.

CyLab Security and Privacy Institute

Finding privacy choices on websites is hard for average users.

In a study presented at this year's ACM CHI conference, CyLab researchers show precisely how difficult it is for average users to access privacy choices online.

CyLab Security and Privacy Institute

“Looking at You” illustrates today’s privacy dilemma in the form of an opera

A team of CyLab researchers helped put on an opera called Looking at You, which ran in New York City in September and explored issues of digital privacy in today’s screen-filled world.

CyLab Security and Privacy Institute

Ads, cookies, and the European privacy regulation

A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Paris-Sud have been pondering how the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation affected the use of cookies, as well as its impact on websites that rely on cookies for revenue-generating ads. 

Wall Street Journal

Acquisti in WSJ on GDPR

Europe’s new privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), appears to benefit Google and Facebook for now. These big players have gained more money from advertisers and they can ask for consent directly from a larger pool of individuals. However, CyLab’s Alessandro Acquisti says it is too early to tell whether the GDPR will favor Facebook and Google or weaken their businesses at the end. “We should be extremely cautious about distinguishing between short-term effects and long-term effects,” he says. “Until we see how cases will be litigated and their outcomes, and until we do empirical studies about downstream impacts, there is no way to resolve these opposing claims.” 

The Economic Times

Acquisti comments on a year of Facebook scandals

Facebook users have found themselves increasingly disenchanted by the social media network this past year, beginning with the Cambridge Analytica scandal and proceeding through the recent document dump unearthed by the UK’s Parliament. CyLab’s and Heinz College’s Alessandro Acquisti commented, “Time and again, Facebook has shown a cavalier attitude towards the handling of users’ data as well as towards informing users clearly and without deception about the actual extent of Facebook’s data collection and handling policies.”