Daron Acemoğlu, Ali Makhdoumi, Azarakhsh Malekian, Asuman Ozdaglar, 18 November 2019

The Cambridge Analytica scandal highlighted the sophisticated ways social media platforms can allow companies to infer information about users and non-users from shared data. This column shows how correlations between platform users’ and non-users’ characteristics mean companies can obtain data at below equilibrium prices, implying welfare inefficiencies for individuals. The authors make some suggestions of regulations that could improve on these data-sharing inefficiencies for users and non-users of the platforms.

Raj Chetty, John Friedman, 18 April 2019

Using confidential data to publish statistics based on small samples is challenging due to privacy loss. This column introduces a simple method for dealing with this issue which adds noise to each statistic in proportion to its sensitivity to the addition or removal of a single observation from the data. The method generally outperforms widely used methods of disclosure limitation such as count-based cell suppression both in terms of privacy loss and statistical bias. As an illustration, the method is used to release estimates of social mobility by Census tract in the Opportunity Atlas. 

Emanuele Borgonovo, Stefano Caselli, Alessandra Cillo, Donato Masciandaro, Giovanni Rabitti, 12 March 2019

Alongside liquidity and store of value, is privacy an important attribute of money? Using laboratory experiments, the column shows that privacy matters, and increases the overall appeal of money. The experiments suggest that future competition between alternative currencies will depend on how the three properties are mixed.

Claudia Biancotti, Paolo Ciocca, 23 October 2018

Calls for regulation of big tech are getting louder and louder. This column argues that policy proposals should be evaluated through the lens of their impact on the evolution of artificial intelligence. It proposes a holistic framework that encompasses consumer control over data, competition in product markets, incentives to innovation, and implications for international trade. It also highlights the role played by major big tech companies, and the threat of data and artificial intelligence monopolisation.

Aaditya Mattoo, Joshua P. Meltzer, 23 May 2018

The EU’s privacy regulation threatens developing country exports of data-based services by making data transfers more difficult. Traditional trade rules and regulatory cooperation cannot resolve this conflict. The column argues that the way forward would be to design trade rules that reflect the bargain struck in the EU-US Privacy Shield. Data destination countries would promise to protect the privacy of foreign citizens in return for source countries promising not to restrict data flows.

Claudia Biancotti, Riccardo Cristadoro, 17 January 2018

Cyber attacks are becoming more frequent and increasingly costly. This column discusses some of the challenges involved in measuring the economic damage caused by these attacks, including a lack of agreement on how to assess damage, an asymmetrical distribution where a few large-scale incidents account for most costs, and externality effects. A measurement framework, estimation strategy, and reliable data will all be needed for successful policy evaluation.

Dirk Niepelt, 21 January 2015

Recent experience with the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates, and the use of high-denomination notes by criminals and tax evaders, have led to revived proposals to phase out cash. This column argues that abolishing cash may be neither necessary nor sufficient to overcome the zero lower bound problem, and would severely undermine privacy. Allowing the public to hold reserves at central banks could reduce the need for deposit insurance, although the transition to the new regime and the effects on credit supply must be carefully considered.

Susan Ariel Aaronson, 14 July 2014

The internet promotes educational, technological, and scientific progress, but governments sometimes choose to control the flow of information for national security reasons, or to protect privacy or intellectual property. This column highlights the use of trade rules to regulate the flow of information, and describes how the EU, the US, and their negotiating partners have been unable to find common ground on these issues. Trade agreements have yet to set information free, and may in fact be making it less free.

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