Alessandro Acquisti is an Associate Professor of Information Systems and Public Policy at the Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), and a member of Carnegie Mellon CyLab. He is the co-director of CMU Center for Behavioral Decision Research (CBDR), and a member of the National Academies’ Committee on public response to alerts and warnings using social media and associated privacy considerations. He has held visiting positions at the Universities of Rome, Paris, and Freiburg (visiting professor); Harvard University (visiting scholar); and Microsoft Research
Alessandro Acquisti studies the behavioral economics of privacy (and information security) in social networks.
What motivates you to share your personal information online?
The line between public and private has blurred in the past decade, both online and in real life, and Alessandro Acquisti is here to explain what this means and why it matters. In this thought-provoking, slightly chilling talk, he shares details of recent and ongoing research — including a project that shows how easy it is to match a photograph of a stranger with their sensitive personal information.
Online, we humans are paradoxical: We cherish privacy, but freely disclose our personal information in certain contexts. Privacy economics offers a powerful lens to understand this paradox, and the field has been spearheaded by Alessandro Acquisti and his colleagues’ analyses of how we decide what to share online and what we get in return.
His team’s surprising studies on facial recognition software showed that it can connect an anonymous human face to an online name — and then to a Facebook account — in about 3 seconds. Other work shows how easy it can be to find a US citizen’s Social Security number using basic pattern matching on public data. Work like this earned him an invitation to testify before a US Senate committee on the impact technology has on civil liberties.