The FTC Then and Now: Privacy

The FTC Then and Now: Privacy

Lenard, Rubin Contribute to New Book: The Regulatory Revolution at the FTC

Contact: Amy Smorodin
(202) 828-4405

September 19, 2013 – A critique of the Federal Trade Commission’s recent approach to online privacy issues by the Technology Policy Institute’s Thomas Lenard and Paul Rubin is included in the new book The Regulatory Revolution at the FTC: A Thirty-Year Perspective on Competition and Consumer Protection. The book, edited by James C. Cooper of George Mason University School of Law, is a collection of essays by leading scholars and officials on how economics-based policymaking at the Commission has laid the groundwork for sensible consumer protection and antitrust regulations. Lenard and Rubin analyze the FTC’s recent privacy reports through the prism of the “regulatory revolution” at the FTC thirty years ago and find the current approach wanting in terms of yielding net benefits for consumers.

In their article, Lenard, TPI President and Senior Fellow, and Rubin, TPI Senior Fellow and Emory University Professor of Economics, assert “The privacy debate is taking place in an empirical vacuum,” referring to the lack of supporting data and analysis for recent FTC privacy proposals. This is a stark departure, the authors argue, from past policymaking at the agency. Specifically, Lenard and Rubin explain the agency has failed to identify harms or a concrete market failure and, as a result, is unable to determine if its suggested privacy framework would improve or reduce consumer welfare compared to other alternatives. The authors urge the Commission to rigorously analyze its privacy proposals by: collecting current data on privacy and data management practices, reviewing if and how current practices are harming consumers, and producing “sufficient evidence of a reasonable expectation that the benefits of its proposal are greater than the costs.”

In addition to Lenard and Rubin, The Regulatory Revolution at the FTC features submissions from top economists, legal scholars, and current and former FTC competition and consumer protection officials. The essays on Federal Trade Commission jurisdiction, policy and its actions on consumer protection and antitrust enforcement provide a historical analysis of the Commission’s regulatory practices and their impact on the present. Additional articles focus on the continuing debate about the agency’s current and future mission, the lessons learned since the “regulatory revolution” and how these lessons can and should inform the FTC’s priorities today and into the future.

The Regulatory Revolution at the FTC: A Thirty-Year Perspective on Competition and Consumer Protection is available for purchase on the Oxford University Press website.

The Technology Policy Institute

The Technology Policy Institute is a non-profit research and educational organization that focuses on the economics of innovation, technological change, and related regulation in the United States and around the world. More information is available at https://techpolicyinstitute.org/.

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