Request For Research Presentations For the PrivacyCon Conference #3

Submission Number:
Karl Muth
Initiative Name:
Request For Research Presentations For the PrivacyCon Conference
Dear PrivacyCon 3 Organizers, I have been, as an economist and legal scholar, focused on the economics and public policy implications of privacy for a decade. My focus on those pesky contracts to which we all carelessly but reluctantly click "I agree" (primarily terms of use, terms of service, and EULAs, or end user license agreements) began with my article "Googlestroika: Privatizing Privacy" (2009); so popular was this topic of conversation with industry executives, fellow academics, and students, that I decided to write a follow-up article ("Googlestroika: Five Years Later" (2015)) and I've lectured to software engineers, high technology industry groups, academic audiences, and others on these topics. Most concerning to me - and to many others - are the characteristics of legal arrangements users enter into wherein they permanently or semi-permanently "barter" privacy they might otherwise enjoy for the right to temporarily enjoy the services of a technology company or high-technology service. These agreements are often verbose, opaque, adhesive, and burdensome for the layperson to digest. Yet these contracts have become not only an appendage of, but a central feature of, business models for high technology companies (see "Consumer Contract Exchanges and the Problem of Adhesion," 28 Yale Journal on Regulation 313, citing Googlestroika at fn.200). I propose a research presentation for PrivacyCon 3 discussing contract terms that are "the state of the art" in the area of user agreements, the reason these terms have become the "state of the art" and are favored by high-tech companies, the effect of these terms on the privacy of users who agree, and the improvements that can be made to these terms to make these contracts more understandable, more equitable, and more economically-efficient. I will also review the research I've done on privacy as a scarce resource and why the economics of privacy, seen through a resource scarcity lens, not only make it desirable for companies to "overcapture" user privacy, but also make it difficult for users to defend their remaining privacy. Kind regards, Dr. Karl T. Muth Lecturer in Law, Pritzker School of Law, Northwestern University Lecturer in Economics and Public Policy, Northwestern University [redacted] Works mentioned above: A.A. Schwartz, Consumer Contract Exchanges and the Problem of Adhesion, 28 Yale J. on Reg. 313 (2011) (citing Muth, 2009). K.T. Muth, Googlestroika: 5 Years Later, 16 N.C. J.L. and TECH. 487 (2015). K.T. Muth, Googlestroika: Privatizing Privacy, 47 DUQ. L. REV. 337 (2009).