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CITP Seminar: Leslie John – Privacy and Disclosure in the Digital Age

Tuesday, April 13, 2021
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Photo of Leslie John

Join the webinar here.

This webinar will not be recorded.

Why do people post salacious photos or incendiary comments on social media, when the damage to their relationships, reputation and careers could be permanent? Why do we prefer to hire people who reveal unsavory information about themselves relative to those who simply choose not to disclose? Why are people more likely to disclose the fact that they cheated on their taxes on a website called “How BAD r U?” that clearly offers no privacy protection than on a sober-looking site with privacy safeguards? And why did Target face consumer ire for sending pregnancy-related coupons to a teenage customer it (correctly) inferred to be pregnant? Yet, how come Amazon can make product recommendations conspicuously based on users’ behavior without seemingly provoking privacy backlash? These questions are all manifestations of the privacy paradox: the apparent disconnect between people’s privacy preferences and behavior.

This talk will describe recent research investigating answers to these questions, with a particular focus on a paper exploring the effect of temporary sharing on impression formation.

Relative to traditional, offline forms of communication, there is an enhanced permanence to digital sharing. Digital disclosures can come back to haunt, making it challenging for people to manage the impressions they make upon others. Nine studies show that these challenges can be exacerbated by temporary-sharing technologies. Temporary sharing reduces privacy concerns, in turn increasing disclosure of potentially compromising information (in the form of uninhibited selfies). Recipients attribute these indiscretions to sharers’ bad judgment, failing to appreciate the situational influence—the temporariness of the sharing platform—on sharers’ disclosures. Sharers do not anticipate this consequence, mistakenly believing that recipients will attribute their disclosure decisions to the (temporary) platform on which they chose to send the photographs.


Leslie K. John is a Marvin Bower Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. Currently, she teaches on the topics of Negotiation, Marketing and Behavioral Economics in various Executive Education courses, including in the Program for Leadership Development. She has also taught extensively in both the required and elective MBA curricula.

Leslie is a behavioral scientist who studies how people make decisions, and the wisdom or error of those decisions. In her primary line of research, she studies privacy decision-making, identifying what drives people to share or withhold personal information, as well as their reactions to firms’ and employers’ use of their personal data. In another line of research, Leslie studies health decision-making, devising psychologically-informed interventions to help people make healthier choices.

Her work has been published in leading academic journals including the Proceedings of the National Academy of SciencesPsychological ScienceManagement ScienceThe Journal of Marketing Research, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. It has received media coverage in outlets including the New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalFinancial Times, and Time Magazine. She has received numerous awards, including from the Association for Psychological Science and the Marketing Science Institute; and was named a Wired Innovation Fellow.

Leslie holds a Ph.D. in behavioral decision research from Carnegie Mellon University, where she also earned an M.Sc. in psychology and behavioral decision research. She completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Waterloo.

To request accommodations for a disability please contact Jean Butcher, , at least one week prior to the event.