Beyond the FTC: The Future of Privacy Enforcement

9 people in business attire stand in front of a blackboard

On March 31 and April 1, 2023, the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology and the University of Iowa Innovation, Business, and Law Center hosted Beyond the FTC: The Future of Privacy Enforcement. The symposium, planned by a number of current and former Cyberlaw Clinic students, brought together legal and computer science scholars to discuss the limitations of the FTC’s current system for enforcing privacy protections and proposals for ensuring protections through avenues other than FTC enforcement. The moderators and keynote speakers included BKC Faculty Director Jonathan Zittrain and Cindy Cohn, Executive Director of longtime Clinic client the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

A white woman with silver hair stands at a podium in front of an audience.

Over the course of two days, over sixty participants joined in person and over 275 joined virtually to listen to debates on cutting-edge privacy issues. They listened to scholars present on topics such as drafting a law to create a duty of data loyalty; establishing new enforcement mechanisms for the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act; and using the Uniform Commercial Code’s implied warranty of merchantability to protect privacy. They listened to keynote speeches from Congresswoman Lori Trahan, Cindy Cohn, and FTC Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection Samuel Levine. And they listened to debates about matters including the proper role of economics in privacy law and the best way to ensure consumers are aware of how they are being tracked online.

The symposium emphasized the value in interdisciplinary work. Scholars spoke about the value of looking to SEC standardized disclosure frameworks to improve privacy audits, of looking to commercial law to enforce data protection, and of looking to linguistics and computer science to more effectively collect information on companies’ privacy representations. And the structure of the symposium itself, by bringing together legal and computer science scholars, underscored the importance of looking beyond traditional legal methods to protect users’ privacy. The future of privacy enforcement, many speakers and symposiasts suggested, requires reaching across disciplines in order to be successful.

A white man in a suit stands in front of a podium addressing an audience.The papers from the conference will be published by the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology this upcoming winter.

Andy Gu (HLS JD ’24), Katie Gu (HLS JD ’24, Cyberlaw Clinic spring ’23), Aris Hadjipanteli (HLS JD ’23, Cyberlaw Clinic spring ’23), Anne Kim (HLS JD ’23, Cyberlaw Clinic spring ’22), and Dina Rabinovitz (HLS JD ’24, Cyberlaw Clinic spring ’23) organized the conference, along with University of Iowa Professors Mihailis Diamantis and Rishab Nithyanand.

For further information about the papers presented, please see

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