Bio

Alessandro Acquisti is the Trustees Professor of Information Technology and Public Policy at the Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). He is an Andrew Carnegie Fellow (inaugural class), the director of the PeeX (Privacy Economics Experiments) lab at CMU, a member of the steering committee of CMU’s Center for Behavioral and Decision Research (CBDR), and the Faculty Chair of the Heinz College’s Master of Science in Information Security Policy & Management (MISPM) program. Previously, for four years he was the Faculty Director of the CMU Digital Transformation and Innovation Center sponsored by PwC (managing a multi-million dollar budget to fund CMU research in areas including analytics, security, and public policy), and the PwC William W. Cooper Professor of Risk and Regulatory Innovation. Alessandro has been a member of the U.S. National Academies' Committee on public response to alerts and warnings using social media, and the Board of Regents of the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Alessandro investigates the economics of privacy. His studies have spearheaded the investigation of privacy and disclosure behavior in online social networks, and the application of behavioral economics to the study of privacy security decision making. He has published and disseminated research in leading journals across diverse disciplines (including Science, Journal of Economic Literature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Management Science, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Marketing Science, Information Systems Research, Journal of Comparative Economics, ACM Transactions, and so forth), as well as through edited books, conference proceedings, and numerous keynotes.
Alessandro has been the recipient of the PET Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technologies, the IBM Best Academic Privacy Faculty Award, the IEEE Cybersecurity Award for Innovation, the Heinz College School of Information's Teaching Excellence Award, and numerous Best Paper awards. His research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, DARPA, Department of Homeland Security, National Security Agency, Transcoop Foundation, Sloan Foundation, Microsoft, and Google. Security education research he developed with colleagues at Carnegie Mellon was deployed in the CMU start-up Wombat Security Technologies, Inc, which was later acquired by Proofpoint. He has testified before the U.S. Senate and House committees on issues related to privacy policy and consumer behavior, and has been frequently invited to consult on privacy policy issues by government bodies including the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the European Commission.
Alessandro's findings have been featured in national and international media outlets, including the Economist, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Financial Times, Wired.com, NPR, CNN, and 60 Minutes. His TED talks on privacy and human behavior have been viewed online over 1.3 million times. His 2009 study on the predictability of Social Security numbers was featured in the “Year in Ideas” issue of the NYT Magazine (the SSNs assignment scheme was changed by the US Social Security Administration in 2011).
For the past few years, Alessandro collaborated as technologist on an interactive musical opera on privacy and surveillance that was, in part, inspired by his own research on social media, face recognition, and inference of sensitive information from public data. The opera - “Looking at You” - premiered in New York in 2019.
Alessandro holds a PhD from UC Berkeley, and Master degrees from UC Berkeley, the London School of Economics, and Trinity College Dublin. He has held visiting positions at the Universities of Rome, Paris, and Freiburg (visiting professor); Harvard University (visiting scholar); University of Chicago (visiting fellow); Microsoft Research (visiting researcher); and Google (visiting scientist).
In a previous life, Alessandro worked as a classical music producer and a label manager (PPMusic.com) and as a freelance arranger, a lyrics writer, and a soundtrack composer for theatre, television, and independent cinema productions (including works for BMG Ariola/Universal and Italy’s RAI 3 national television). He has raced a Yamaha TZ 125 motorcycle in the USGPRU national championship.