You are reading Economic Forces, a free weekly newsletter on economics, especially price theory, without the politics. You can support our newsletter by signing up here: There was a time when transactions were mostly done in-person. Two people would meet and exchange goods for gold or silver or even pieces of paper. These trades could be anonymous. Neither party to the trade needed to know anything about the other. One had the good that the buyer wanted and the other had money that the seller wanted and they were able to trade.
As I've written (https://scholarship.law.edu/jlt/vol29/iss2/4/) the world has gotten more legible and that means that there's more useful information out there.
One other consideration is that there are big benefits to information gathering, obviously. Targeted advertising is a major business model of popular and "free" online services.
The reduction in privacy is the cost of not controlling information about you. But information about you is not particularly valuable when under your control. At least we haven't figured a way to make it particularly valuable. On the other hand, aggregating information about many many people can help advertisers and others identify trends and patterns, and this can be very valuable. This value needs to be considered.
Very interesting. I wonder if the level of anonimity/privacy from the first half of the XX century has always been around. Cities were not that big before then, and transportation much costly and slower. Maybe we are hitorically used to the lack of privacy?