The Digital Privacy Paradox: Small Money, Small Costs, Small Talk | Athey, Catalini, Tucker

Susan Athey, Christian Catalini, Catherine Tucker; The Digital Privacy Paradox: Small Money, Small Costs, Small Talk; working paper; 2017-02-13; 32 pages; landing; Working Paper W23488; National Bureau o Gratuitously Paywall Rough Drafts (NBER); paywall.
Susan Athey, senior fellow, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research
Christian Catalini, MIT
Catherine Tucker, MIT

tl;dr → <quote>Consumers say they care about privacy, but at multiple points in the process they end up making choices that are inconsistent with their stated preferences.</quote>

See Item #3, How cool of a result is that? You are safe, you are loved, you are subtle, you are special. You may opt out any time. And we give back to the community.


This paper uses data from the MIT digital currency experiment to shed light on consumer behavior regarding commercial, public and government surveillance. The set- ting allows us to explore the apparent contradiction that many cryptocurrencies offer people the chance to escape government surveillance, but do so by making transactions themselves public on a distributed ledger (a ‘blockchain’). We find three main things.

  1. First, the effect of small incentives may explain the privacy paradox, where people say they care about privacy but are willing to relinquish private data quite easily.
  2. Second, small costs introduced during the selection of digital wallets by the random ordering of featured options, have a tangible effect on the technology ultimately adopted, often in sharp contrast with individual stated preferences about privacy.
  3. Third, the introduction of irrelevant, but reassuring information about privacy protection makes consumers less likely to avoid surveillance at large.


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