Consumer Subject Review Boards: A Thought Experiment
66 Stanford Law Review Online 97-102 (2013)
6 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2013
Date Written: September 3, 2013
Big data translates into a big advantage over consumers. Indeed, the challenges posed by big data to consumer protection seem to gesture beyond privacy’s foundations or buzzwords, beyond “fair information practice principles” or “privacy by design.” They may take us outside of privacy altogether into a more basic discussion of the ethics of information. The good news is that the scientific community has been heading down this road for thirty years. I explore a version of their approach here. Specifically, I offer “Consumer Subject Review Boards,” akin to science’s Institutional Review Boards, as a thought experiment. Simply applying IRB to firms would not be appropriate, but standardization and process would benefit consumer and industry both. First, a CSRB could help unearth and head off media fiascos before they materialize. Second, CSRBs could increase regulatory certainty, perhaps forming the basis for an FTC safe harbor if sufficiently robust and transparent. Third, and most importantly, CSRBs could add a measure of legitimacy to the study of consumers for profit.
Keywords: research ethics, privacy, big data, consumer protection, fair trade practices
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