FTC Privacy Law and Policy

By Chris Hoofnagle

Posted on February 5, 2016

I am delighted to announce the publication of my first book, Federal Trade Commission Privacy Law and Policy (Cambridge University Press 2016). The book is a broad-ranging primer on the FTC’s consumer protection mission. It explains how decades of false advertising enforcement informs today’s privacy efforts. It offers practical advice for lawyers practicing before the agency, strategy for advocates, and insight for policymakers on the challenge of addressing unfair and deceptive trade practices. Most importantly, the book provides context for the agency’s powers and procedure. After all, we are relying on a century-old institution to regulate technology. Much of this context is lost to history, but familiarity with it helps one understand why and how the FTC acts.
The FTC’s regulation of technology and privacy is not new. The FTC’s first reported case concerned a company that treated cotton so that it could be passed off as silk. Its first privacy case dealt with an early kind of information broker that tricked people into revealing personal information so that debt collectors could locate them. Reviewing the history of these cases and the rationales that gave rise to the FTC helps us understand broader policy problems in consumer protection. Some short essays from the book are online here.
I was careful to negotiate a relatively low price for the paperback (keep in mind this is an academic publisher) and a copyright reversion. Authors, you can negotiate with publishers! And I’m happy to report that the people at Cambridge, and in particular my editor Matthew Gallaway, were lovely to work with.