FTC and Consumer Privacy in the Coming Decade, The

Privacy and Security

Article Snapshot


Nathaniel Good, Jens Grossklags, Chris Hoofnagle, Deirdre Mulligan and Joseph Turow


Nov. 8, 2006, FTC Tech-ade workshop, Washington, DC


This paper looks at how consumers respond to privacy policies online.

Policy Relevance

The FTC should set out basic ground rules for privacy to avoid consumer confusion and prevent bad actors from taking advantage of consumers.

Main Points

  • Consumers often think that a “privacy policy” means that a web site will not reveal information about them without their consent, and may not realize that policies vary. Consumers rarely read privacy policies or user agreements.

  • The FTC should rule that the use of the term “privacy policy” without certain baseline protections is deceptive.

  • Because sites use legalese consumers find it confusing to shop for a site that protects their privacy best. Short notices are more likely to be read and help sites compete to provide better privacy.

  • The FTC should consult experts on human-computer interaction and psychology to identify how technology can help or hinder consumers from making informed choices about privacy.

  • The FTC should set out a benchmark to measure the success of self-regulation.

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