IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Protecting privacy amid questions of economic efficiency and egalitarianism

Listed author(s):
  • Baffi, Enrico

This paper aims to analyze theories developed both in favor and against privacy protection according to current practices in the West. In the paper, we will examine economic justifications for privacy protection as defined by American economists and jurists, as well as the advantages to be derived by a possible elimination of said protection. Moving beyond existing economic theories, this piece develops a new economic idea, wherein privacy protection is warranted when an individual becomes interested in another's habits for a specific reason: to root out different behaviors in that person by observing a behavior that is correlated with those behaviors. Imagine the scenario of a worker who is also a soccer player, who is not competitive on the job, and is a team player, when he plays soccer, with his co-workers. The two facts, one of loving his own soccer team, and second, of not being competitive in the workplace are expressions of the same human attitude, or of a certain aspect of his personality. The employer is interested in finding out if this worker plays soccer in order to identify a lack of competitiveness on the job, and perhaps to assign him more menial tasks. The employer wishes to know the worker's interest in soccer in order to deduce therefrom a second circumstance: non-competitiveness in the workplace. Thus if regulating others' conduct is not forbidden, the worker, in order not to be found out, will no longer play soccer; he will suffer a loss in terms of his personal welfare, while the employer, on the other hand, will gain nothing, having discovered nothing. From this comes a different justification for privacy protection. In the paper, however, we note that privacy protection is a tool for encouraging equality or, in pejorative terms, egalitarianism. Behind the privacy “screen,” indeed, everyone appears in shades of gray. Privacy protection makes individuals indistinguishable. In terms of inter-personal relationships, this means a “veil” of ignorance, with all its attendant costs. Therefore, it is possible that the economic justifications defined by those in favor of privacy protection should be put aside in favor of transparency among individuals.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: original version
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 38801.

in new window

Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision: 2012
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:38801
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Ludwigstraße 33, D-80539 Munich, Germany

Phone: +49-(0)89-2180-2459
Fax: +49-(0)89-2180-992459
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

in new window

  1. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-661, September.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:38801. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Joachim Winter)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.