Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 28 No. 2 (Spring 2014)


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Privacy and Data-Based Research

Article Citation

Heffetz, Ori, and Katrina Ligett. 2014. "Privacy and Data-Based Research." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 28(2): 75-98.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.28.2.75


What can we, as users of microdata, formally guarantee to the individuals (or firms) in our dataset, regarding their privacy? We retell a few stories, well-known in data-privacy circles, of failed anonymization attempts in publicly released datasets. We then provide a mostly informal introduction to several ideas from the literature on differential privacy, an active literature in computer science that studies formal approaches to preserving the privacy of individuals in statistical databases. We apply some of its insights to situations routinely faced by applied economists, emphasizing big-data contexts.

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Heffetz, Ori (Cornell U)
Ligett, Katrina (CA Institute of Technology)

JEL Classifications

C55: Modeling with Large Data Sets


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