January 29, 2015
In "Privacy and Human Behavior in the Information Age", a review published in the Jan. 30 special issue of the journal Science, CMU CyLab's Alessandro Acquisti and a team of fellow CMU researchers have detailed the privacy hurdles people face while navigating in the information age, and offered some perspectives on what should be done about privacy at a policy level.
In their review, Acquisti, professor of information technology and public policy at CMU’s H. John Heinz III College, and his co-authors, Laura Brandimarte and George Loewenstein, challenge a number of claims that have become common in the ongoing debate over privacy, including the claim that privacy may be an historical anomaly, or that people do not really care for data protection.
“Privacy is not a modern invention, but a historically universal need,” said Acquisti, the lead author. “In certain situations, individuals will care for privacy quite a lot and act to protect it, but advances in technology and the acceleration of data collection challenge our ability to make self-interested decisions in the face of increasingly complex tradeoffs.”
In the paper, the authors identify three themes prevalent in empirical research on privacy decisions and behavior: People are often uncertain about the consequences of privacy-related behaviors and their own preferences over these consequences; People’s concern, or lack thereof, about privacy is context dependent; and Privacy concerns are malleable, particularly by commercial and government influences.
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