Dean's Lecture

An Experiment in Hiring Discrimination via Online Social Networks

Wednesday, April 4, 2012
4:10 pm to 5:30 pm
Alessandro Acquisti

Self-report surveys and anecdotal evidence indicate that US firms use social networking sites to seek information about prospective hires. However, little is known about how the information they find online actually influences firms’ hiring decisions. We present the design and preliminary results of a series of controlled experiments of the impact that information posted online by job applicants can have on employers’ hiring behavior. In two studies (a hypothetical experiment and a field experiment) we measure the ratio of callbacks that different job applicants receive as function of their personal traits. The experiments focus on traits that US employers are not allowed to ask about during interviews, but which can be inferred from perusing applicants’ online profiles.

Alessandro Acquisti is an associate professor at the Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University, and the co-director of CMU Center for Behavioral Decision Research. His research focuses on the economics of privacy. His studies have spearheaded the application of behavioral economics to the analysis of privacy decision making, and the analysis of disclosure behavior and privacy trade-offs in online social networks. Alessandro has been the recipient of the PET Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technologies, the IBM Best Academic Privacy Faculty Award, the Heinz College Award for Teaching Excellence, and multiple best paper awards. He is a member of the National Academies’ Committee on Public Response to Alerts and Warnings Using Social Media and Associated Privacy Considerations, and has held visiting positions at the Universities of Chicago, Harvard, Rome, Paris, and Freiburg, at Microsoft Research in New England, and at Google. He holds a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley School of Information, and master’s degrees from the School of Information, the London School of Economics, and Trinity College Dublin.

Last updated:

March 26, 2015