Consumer Subject Review Boards: A Thought Experiment

66 Stanford Law Review Online 97-102 (2013)

6 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2013

See all articles by Ryan Calo

Ryan Calo

University of Washington - School of Law; Stanford University - Law School; Yale Law School

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

Suggested Citation

Calo, Ryan, Consumer Subject Review Boards: A Thought Experiment (September 3, 2013). 66 Stanford Law Review Online 97-102 (2013). Available at SSRN:

Ryan Calo (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States

HOME PAGE: http://

Stanford University - Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

Yale Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics