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Public Goods, Social Pressure, and the Choice between Privacy and Publicity


  • Andrew F. Daughety
  • Jennifer F. Reinganum


We model privacy as an agent's choice of action being unobservable to others. An agent derives utility from his action, the aggregate of agents' actions, and other agents' perceptions of his type. If his action is unobservable, he takes his full-information optimal action and is pooled with other types, while if observable, then he distorts it to enhance others' perceptions of him. This increases the public good, but the disutility from distortion is a social cost. When the disutility of distortion is high (low) relative to the marginal utility of the public good, a policy of privacy (publicity) is optimal. (JEL D82, H41)

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2010. "Public Goods, Social Pressure, and the Choice between Privacy and Publicity," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 191-221, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmic:v:2:y:2010:i:2:p:191-221 Note: DOI: 10.1257/mic.2.2.191

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 1995. "Keeping Society in the Dark: On the Admissibility of Pretrial Negotiations as Evidence in Court," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(2), pages 203-221, Summer.
    2. Leslie M. Marx & Steven A. Matthews, 2000. "Dynamic Voluntary Contribution to a Public Project," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(2), pages 327-358.
    3. Andrew F. Daughety & Jennifer F. Reinganum, 2008. "Communicating quality: a unified model of disclosure and signalling," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 39(4), pages 973-989.
    4. Linardi, Sera & McConnell, Margaret A., 2008. "Volunteering and image concerns," Working Papers 1282, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
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    6. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1991. "Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061414, July.
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    8. Curtis R. Taylor, 2004. "Consumer Privacy and the Market for Customer Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(4), pages 631-650, Winter.
    9. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-1458, December.
    10. Harbaugh, William T., 1998. "What do donations buy?: A model of philanthropy based on prestige and warm glow," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 269-284, February.
    11. Grossman, Sanford J, 1981. "The Informational Role of Warranties and Private Disclosure about Product Quality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 461-483, December.
    12. Paul R. Milgrom, 1981. "Good News and Bad News: Representation Theorems and Applications," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 12(2), pages 380-391, Autumn.
    13. Calzolari, Giacomo & Pavan, Alessandro, 2006. "On the optimality of privacy in sequential contracting," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 130(1), pages 168-204, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2011. "Laws and Norms," NBER Working Papers 17579, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2016. "Long-Term Persistence," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 14(6), pages 1401-1436, December.
    3. Fluet, Claude & Galbiati, Rpbertp, 2016. "Lois et normes : les enseignements de l'économie comportementale," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 92(1-2), pages 191-215, Mars-Juin.
    4. repec:eee:gamebe:v:104:y:2017:i:c:p:293-308 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Cartwright, Edward & Patel, Amrish, 2013. "How category reporting can improve fundraising," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 73-90.
    6. Bar-Isaac Heski, 2012. "Transparency, Career Concerns, and Incentives for Acquiring Expertise," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 12(1), pages 1-15, January.
    7. Jin-Hyuk Kim & Liad Wagman, 2015. "Screening incentives and privacy protection in financial markets: a theoretical and empirical analysis," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 46(1), pages 1-22, March.
    8. Avi Goldfarb, 2014. "What is Different About Online Advertising?," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 44(2), pages 115-129, March.
    9. Bruno Deffains & Claude Fluet, 2013. "Legal Liability when Individuals Have Moral Concerns," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(4), pages 930-955, August.
    10. Alessandro Acquisti & Curtis Taylor & Liad Wagman, 2016. "The Economics of Privacy," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(2), pages 442-492, June.
    11. Ni Huang & Yili Hong & Gordon Burtch, 2015. "Digital Social Visibility, Anonymity and User Content Generation: Evidence from Natural Experiments," Working Papers 15-04, NET Institute.
    12. Fabrizio Adriani & Silvia Sonderegger, 2013. "Signaling about norms: Socialization under strategic uncertainty," Discussion Papers 2013-11, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
    13. repec:bla:ecinqu:v:55:y:2017:i:3:p:1579-1584 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Anderlini, Luca & Gerardi, Dino & Lagunoff, Roger, 2016. "Auditing, disclosure, and verification in decentralized decision problems," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 131(PA), pages 393-408.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods


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