The Cost of Privacy: Welfare Effects of the Disclosure of Covid-19 Cases

42 Pages Posted: 15 May 2020

See all articles by David Argente

David Argente

Pennsylvania State University

Chang-Tai Hsieh

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Munseob Lee

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Date Written: May 14, 2020

Abstract

South Korea publicly disclosed detailed location information of individuals that tested positive for COVID-19. We quantify the effect of public disclosure on the transmission of the virus and economic losses in Seoul. We use detailed foot-traffic data from South Korea's largest mobile phone company to document the change in the flows of people across neighborhoods in Seoul in response to information on the locations of positive cases. We analyze the effect of the change in commuting flows in a SIR meta-population model where the virus spreads due to these flows. We endogenize these flows in a model of urban neighborhoods where individuals commute across neighborhoods to access jobs and leisure opportunities. Relative to a scenario where no information is disclosed, the change in commuting patterns due to public disclosure lowers the number of cases by 400 thousand and the number of deaths by 13 thousand in Seoul over two years. Compared to a city-wide lock-down that results in the same number of cases over two years, the economic cost is 50% lower with full disclosure.

Suggested Citation

Argente, David and Hsieh, Chang-Tai and Lee, Munseob, The Cost of Privacy: Welfare Effects of the Disclosure of Covid-19 Cases (May 14, 2020). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2020-64. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3601143 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3601143

David Argente

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

606 Kern Building
State College, PA 16801
United States

Chang-Tai Hsieh (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

549 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Munseob Lee

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
#0519
La Jolla, CA 92093-0519
United States

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