The Ftc as Internet Privacy Norm Entrepreneur

23 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2001


In his article entitled "The FTC as Internet Privacy Norm Entrepreneur," Professor Steven Hetcher takes a closer look into the Federal Trade Commission's efforts to promote online privacy by means of website privacy policies. In his analysis, Professor Hetcher employs a public choice approach to model the FTC's activities with the hope of better understanding what may really be motivating the FTC's policy choices. This article considers and rejects the supposition that the FTC's purported efforts to promote industry self-regulation indicate that the agency has been captured by the industry. Instead, Professor Hetcher charges that the FTC's endorsement of self-regulation of the Internet is simply a ruse whereby this powerful industry will come to completely dominate the personal data of the consuming public, resulting in the complete disappearance of individual informational privacy.

This article considers the FTC's role as an internet privacy norm entrepreneur. Professor Hetcher argues that once websites are induced to make representations in writing via privacy policies, it is easier for the FTC to seek enforcement actions for deceptive trade practices. The FTC's promotion of privacy policies thus allows the agency to increase its jurisdiction. The FTC's seeming attempts to promote industry self-regulation have all the while been establishing the predicate for their jurisdictional grasp over website activities. Because the FTC is able to gain a jurisdictional foothold by means of promoting more respected website privacy norms, the agency is aptly characterized as an internet privacy norm entrepreneur.

Suggested Citation

Hetcher, Steven A., The Ftc as Internet Privacy Norm Entrepreneur. Available at SSRN: or

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