The Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Privacy in the Coming Decade

3 I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society 724 (2007)

27 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2013

See all articles by Joseph Turow

Joseph Turow

University of Pennsylvania - Annenberg School for Communication

Chris Jay Hoofnagle

University of California, Berkeley - School of Information; University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Deirdre K. Mulligan

University of California, Berkeley - School of Information

Nathan Good

Good Research

Jens Grossklags

Pennsylvania State University

Date Written: December 9, 2007

Abstract

The large majority of consumers believe that the term “privacy policy” describes a baseline level of information practices that protect their privacy. In short, “privacy,” like “free” before it, has taken on a normative meaning in the marketplace. When consumers see the term “privacy policy,” they believe that their personal information will be protected in specific ways; in particular, they assume that a website that advertises a privacy policy will not share their personal information. Of course, this is not the case. Privacy policies today come in all different flavors. Some companies make affirmative commitments not to share the personal information of their consumers. In other cases, however, privacy policies simply inform consumers that unless they “opt out” of sharing certain information, the company will communicate their personal information to other commercial entities.

Given that consumers today associate the term “privacy policy” with specific practices that afford a normative level of privacy protection, the use of the term by a website that does not adhere to these base line practices can mislead consumers to expect privacy that, in reality, does not exist. This is not to suggest that companies intend to mislead consumers, but rather that consumers today associate certain practices with “privacy policy” just as they associate certain terms and conditions with the word “free.”

Because the term “privacy policy” has taken on a specific meaning in the marketplace and connotes a particular level of protection to consumers, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) should regulate the use of the term “privacy policy” to ensure that companies using the term deliver a set of protections that meet consumers’ expectations and that the term “privacy policy” does not mislead consumers during marketplace transactions.

Suggested Citation

Turow, Joseph and Hoofnagle, Chris Jay and Mulligan, Deirdre K. and Good, Nathan and Grossklags, Jens, The Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Privacy in the Coming Decade (December 9, 2007). 3 I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society 724 (2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2365578

Joseph Turow

University of Pennsylvania - Annenberg School for Communication ( email )

3620 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215 898 5842 (Phone)

Chris Jay Hoofnagle (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Information ( email )

212 South Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-4600
United States
510-643-0213 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://hoofnagle.berkeley.edu

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

344 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
510-643-0213 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://hoofnagle.berkeley.edu

Deirdre K. Mulligan

University of California, Berkeley - School of Information ( email )

102 South Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-4600
United States

Nathan Good

Good Research ( email )

828 San Pablo Ave
Suite 120D
ALBANY, CA CA 94706
United States

Jens Grossklags

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

College of Information Sciences and Technology
IST Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

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