How consumers let down their guard on web privacy

There's a piece in the NYT by Somini Sengupta on how we are increasingly turning over our data online "in exchange for a deal we can’t refuse." The story profiles Alessandro Acquisti, a behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, who studies how online users make these choices. "In a series of provocative experiments, he has shown that despite how much we say we value our privacy — and we do, again and again — we tend to act inconsistently." [NYT]


  1. I’m definitely ‘guilty’ of purporting to care about privacy while at the same time happily using most of google’s products and posting away on facebook. 

    Rightly or wrongly, I am more likely to trust what I see as big, anonymous computer systems than individual people I can see.

    Someone at the pet adoption place wants my social security number? “No way,” I think, “why would you need that? I’m not even giving my email address”. Meanwhile, the fact that Google has all of my email, voicemail, and most of my browsing history only concerns me slightly. (More now that I’ve stopped to think about it.) Similarly, I find those people who check receipts at the door of the shopping center to be deeply offensive and intrusive… but it doesn’t worry me so much than an a computer somewhere has recorded everything I’ve purchased. I guess I’m one of the inconsistent ones.

    1. It’s very natural. We’ve not had a chance to evolve a distrust for inanimate objects. A real, flesh and blood alive thing is clearly a potential threat, but not a computer (which used to be strange and unfamiliar but now we all have one — it’d be like being scared of your fridge stealing your identity)

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