Chris Hoofnagle's Behavioral Advertising Paper Receives the CPDP 2014 Multidisciplinary Privacy Research Award

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on January 23, 2014

Last night, Chris Hoofnagle’s privacy paper, “Behavioral Advertising: The Offer You Cannot Refuse” received the prestigious Multidisciplinary Privacy Research Award at the 2014 Computers, Privacy & Data Protection (CPDP) conference in Brussels.

Mr. Hoofnagle and his co-authors, Ashkan Soltani, Nathan Good, Dietrich James Wambach, and Mika Ayenson developed custom tools to document web tracking mechanisms. Their findings demonstrate that advertisers deliberately use obscure technologies to make it impossible for users to avoid behavioral advertising (thus, the “offer you cannot refuse”).

An excerpt from “Behavioral Advertising: The Offer You Cannot Refuse” (6 Harvard Law & Policy Review 273, 2012):

In the political debate, “paternalism” is a frequently invoked objection to privacy rules. Our work inverts the assumption that privacy interventions are paternalistic while market approaches promote freedom. We empirically demonstrate that advertisers are making it impossible to avoid online tracking. Advertisers are so invested in the idea of a personalized web that they do not think consumers are competent to decide to reject it. We argue that policymakers should fully appreciate the idea that consumer privacy interventions can enable choice, while the alternative, pure marketplace approaches can deny consumers opportunities to exercise autonomy.

The CPDP 2014 Multidisciplinary Privacy Research Award is presented to the best paper that describes new ideas in privacy and data protection, and that has been written by an interdisciplinary team of researchers. The spirit of the award is to reward the results of multidisciplinary work which advances new ideas in the privacy field by encompassing the expertise across diverse disciplines. “Behavioral Advertising: The Offer You Cannot Refuse” was selected by a jury of prominent European researchers and representatives from the U.S. and Asia.

Chris Hoofnagle is lecturer in residence at UC Berkeley Law and director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology's information privacy programs. His research focuses upon the structure of legal and economic relationships that lead to tensions between firms and individuals, manifested through information privacy problems, gaps in understanding of legal protections, deficits in consumer law protections, and the problem of financial fraud. Mr. Hoofnagle has written extensively in the fields of information privacy, the law of unfair and deceptive practices, consumer law, and identity theft.