How much is that privacy in the window? Researchers behind experiments on people’s willingness to pay for privacy, including Angela Winegar, Cass Sunstein and Alessandro Acquisti argue that consumers’ behavior and preferences aren’t a reliable indicator of how they value their own privacy, let alone how a society as a whole should value it.

“Study after study has found that people’s valuations of data privacy are driven less by rational assessments of the risks they face than by factors like the wording of the questions they’re asked, the information they’re given beforehand, and the range of choices they’re presented. They’re easily manipulated by small, immediate incentives, and easily deterred by something like requiring a single extra click.

As long as [privacy is] viewed in economic terms, as a good to be bought, sold, and traded off between consumers and corporations, tech companies will have the upper hand, because individuals’ choices are so easily manipulated. An alternative, suggests Acquisti, is to view privacy more like a human right: something everyone deserves, whether they fully grasp its value or not.

Will Oremus of One Zero, a Medium publication about technology and science, explores the debate over the true value of online privacy.