Empiricism and Privacy Policies in the Restatement of Consumer Contract Law

72 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2017 Last revised: 9 Jan 2019

See all articles by Gregory Klass

Gregory Klass

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: 2018


The Draft Restatement of the Law of Consumer Contracts includes a quantitative study of judicial decisions concerning businesses’ online privacy policies, which it cites in support of a claim that most courts treat privacy policies as contract terms. This Article reports an attempt to reproduce that study’s results. Using the Reporters’ data, this study was unable to reproduce their numerical findings. This study found in the data fewer relevant decisions, and a lower proportion of decisions supporting the Draft Restatement position. It also found little support for the Draft’s claim that there is a clear trend recognizing privacy policies as contracts, and none for the claim that those decisions have been more influential than decisions coming out the other way. A qualitative analysis of the decisions in the dataset reveals additional issues.

The analysis reveals that the Draft Restatement study’s numerical results obscure both the many judgment calls needed to code the decisions and their limited persuasive power. These results confirm the importance of transparency and replication in empirical case law studies. They also suggest that the closed nature of the Restatement process is perhaps ill-suited to producing reliable large-scale quantitative case law studies.

Keywords: contract law, consumer contracts, privacy law, privacy policies, empirical legal studies, quantitative caselaw studies

Suggested Citation

Klass, Gregory, Empiricism and Privacy Policies in the Restatement of Consumer Contract Law (2018). Yale Journal on Regulation, Vol. 36, Pp. 45-115, 2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3001212 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3001212

Gregory Klass (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.georgetown.edu/faculty/klass-gregory.cfm

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