The Drive for Privacy and the Difficulty of Achieving It in the Digital Age
by Alessandro Acquisti (Carnegie Mellon University), Laura Brandimarte (University of Arizona) and George Loewenstein (Herbert A. Simon University)
2 August 2021
Technologies, interfaces, and market forces can all influence human behavior. But probably, and hopefully, they cannot alter human nature. If privacy is both culturally specific and culturally universal, chances are that people’s quest for privacy will not dissipate.
Highly recommended long read (Italian version here) of which below the conclusion:
The ultimate conclusion of this paper may appear pessimistic. We showed that people care and act to manage their privacy, but face steep psychological and economic hurdles that make not just desired, but also desirable privacy nearly unattainable. We conclude that approaches to privacy management that rely purely on market forces and consumer responsibilization have failed. Comprehensive policy intervention is needed if a society’s goal is to allow its citizens to be in the position to manage privacy effectively and to their best advantage.
Although our conclusions, as we noted, may appear pessimistic, some of the very evidence we discussed in this article provides a glimmer of hope. Turning back to where we started, pronouncements that privacy is dead, we argued, confuse opportunities with wants. People’s opportunities for privacy are notably shrinking. And yet, across history, individuals—from Eastern Germans under Stasi to teenagers on social media —have revealed a remarkable tenacity in their attempts to carve out private spaces for themselves and their groups in face of all odds—even while in public, and even under surveillance. Technologies, interfaces, and market forces can all influence human behavior. But probably, and hopefully, they cannot alter human nature. If privacy, as Altman proposed, is both culturally specific and culturally universal, chances are that people’s quest for privacy will not dissipate.