Author Archive

FPF Senior Fellow Peter Swire Receives Privacy Leadership Award

The Future of Privacy Forum congratulates our Senior Fellow, Peter Swire, on receiving the 2015 Privacy Leadership Award from the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Peter has worked with FPF since 2010 on a wide range of privacy and cyber-security issues, such as encryption, Big Data, and many more. His current work with FPF includes research on de-identification, Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties, and privacy for the Internet of Things.

Here are Peter’s remarks from the March 6 IAPP Summit, when receiving the award:


I’d like to thank the Academy.

I am honored to receive this award and humbled to do so with many people in this audience who have inspired me and done so much to protect privacy internationally, and over so many years.

My thanks to the IAPP, its Board, and Trevor Hughes for his amazing leadership.  Isn’t this Summit amazing?

This moment has led me to reflect on how I first became involved in privacy, and why.  I would highlight four things.

First, I have had a life-long fascination with the intersection of technology, policy, and law.  I love science fiction, and I especially love stories about how people and societies respond to new technological challenges.  In many ways that’s what we do as privacy professionals.

Second, I love doing research. How can we make sense of the complex issues that face us?  My first article on the law of the Internet was in 1993, and the issues have kept coming fast and furious ever since.

Third, I am drawn to public service and solving real-world problems.  Some of those experiences were mentioned in the introduction by Jim – my work as Chief Counselor for Privacy in the Clinton Administration, the efforts to craft a global DNT standard, and then President Obama’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology.

Fourth, working on privacy gives me an opportunity to teach, and hopefully inspire, a new generation of students and privacy professionals.  One great pleasure of attending IAPP functions is the opportunity to talk with former students and see how they have grown into leaders in their own right.

Today and moving forward, I feel fortunate to be part of some amazing organizations, as we study and address some of the most pressing privacy problems in the world.

First, is Georgia Tech, my new home since 2013.  Each fall I co-teach a privacy and technology course with the one and only Annie Antón. One exciting part about being at Georgia Tech is the work we are doing to bring technologists and engineers together with law and policy —  and we have multiple research streams on IoT, cybersecurity, and numerous other topics.

Second, I recently started as a Senior Counsel with Alston & Bird.  Jim Harvey and David Keating lead an outstanding team of privacy and cyber lawyers.  I am excited to be solving real-world problems for clients in this new setting.  I welcome all of you to come speak with us if we can be of assistance.

Next, I continue as a fellow with the Future of Privacy Forum.  Jules Polonetsky leads the day-to-day efforts with his incredible energy and intelligence, including a growing list of successful self-regulatory agreements.  Chris Wolf, the other co-founder, many of you know for the grace, class, and insight he brings to every endeavor.

Finally, on the list of organizations I am proud to be affiliated with, the Center for Democracy and Technology this year welcomed Nuala O’Connor as its new leader.  I was on a panel just yesterday with Nuala, and it will be exciting for all of us to see where she will lead.

A passion for research, solving practical problems, providing thought leadership, and articulating moral vision – those are themes, I hope, for the work of many of you in this audience.

We are fortunate to be privacy professionals in this era when privacy is at the center of so many important debates in our society.  My thanks to the IAPP for this award today.  My bigger thanks to all of you for what we can build together in the years to come.

White House Consumer Privacy Bill Starts an Important Conversation

This afternoon the White House released a discussion draft of its Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Act. Jules Polonetsky and Chris Wolf issued the following response:

Today’s release of the text of Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights demonstrates the U.S.’s continuing commitment to advance privacy protection for consumers.

Although the current system of FTC enforcement actions and strong sectoral laws provide important tools to address privacy harms, the ideas proposed in the bill are certain to help frame the discussion about privacy practices by companies and not-for profits in the future.  International data regulators should recognize that this bill is not a critique of the current system, but the opening of a nuanced conversation that seeks to balance benefit and risk, while being considerate of consumer rights.

The impact of the bill is not likely to be legislative, but the ideas it raises will have impact on the privacy debate.  Key concepts in the bill that will advance the privacy discussion in a very practical way include the focus on context to shape appropriate uses of data, the recognition that assessing benefit and risk is important, and the consideration of Privacy Review Boards as internal or external structures that could help assess beneficial uses of data that would otherwise be constrained by law.

What Privacy Papers Should Policymakers Be Reading?

Each year, FPF invites privacy scholars and authors interested in privacy questions to submit articles and papers to be considered by members of our Advisory Board, with an aim toward showcasing those articles that should inform any conversation about privacy among policymakers in Congress, as well as at the Federal Trade Commission and in other government agencies. For our fifth annual Privacy Papers for Policymakers, we received a record number of submissions covering topics ranging from data use in elections, government surveillance, the always-present cloud, and even the emergence of app stores for the brain.

However, in a year where the White House launched a review into the privacy implications of “Big Data,” scholars and privacy advocates were particularly focused on looking at how algorithms are changing our society – and what that means for individuals’ privacy. Our Advisory Board selected papers that addressed this challenge head-on. It also selected papers that describe how information about consumers is being collected, gathered, and used across the Internet, and what role the FTC should specifically play in policing the privacy and data security practices around those activities.

Our top privacy papers for 2014 are, in alphabetical order:

Big Data’s Disparate Impact
Solon Barocas & Andrew Selbst

Four Privacy Myths
Neil Richards

Free: Accounting for the Costs of the Internet’s Most Popular Price
Chris Jay Hoofnagle & Jan Whittington

The Scope and Potential of FTC Data Protection 
Woodrow Hartzog & Dan Solove

The Scored Society
Danielle Citron & Frank Pasquale

The Scoring of America: How Secret Consumer Scores Threaten Your Privacy and Your Future 
Pam Dixon and Robert Gellman

These papers illuminate concerns that will continue to drive privacy debates in 2015. Already in the new year, we have seen the White House push new proposals to address student privacy and identity theft. The Internet of Things has made headlines, moving from something that is coming to something that is here.

We want to thank EY for their special support of this project. And we thank the scholars, advocates, and Advisory Board members that are engaged with us to explore the future of privacy. We look forward to celebrating the formal release of FPF’s Privacy Papers for Policymakers digest at an event the evening of March 3rd, ahead of the IAPP Global Privacy Summit. If you are interested in attending, please reach to us at

-Joseph Jerome, Policy Counsel

White House Return to Big Data Focuses on Price Discrimination

Today, the White House released an interim progress report detailing the Administration’s efforts on privacy in big data since its landmark report last spring. The update highlights the President’s recent calls for new privacy legislation, including efforts on student privacy and the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, and also calls for deeper understanding of differential pricing — or what is commonly called price discrimination. The White House Council of Economic Advisors released a companion report, exploring how companies can use the information they collect to more effectively charge different prices to different customers.

The nineteen-page report notes that industry is already using big data for targeted marketing and beginning to experiment with personalized pricing. According to FPF Senior Fellow Peter Swire, the report is “a readable discussion of price discrimination from an economists’ perspective. In a non-ideological way, it explains the terminology used by professional economists.”

Much of the report summaries existing concerns about the use of big data and price discrimination in general. Most economists, the report notes, consider price discrimination in the context of differences among consumers in their willingness to pay for good. While the report focuses on this sort of value-based pricing, it also notes the need for further discussion about the impact of big data on “risk-based” pricing, where sellers charge prices based on differences in the cost of serving different groups.Without much elaboration, the report cautions that “[b]ig data encourages risk-based pricing by enabling more fine-grained measurement of various risks,” citing the ability to track individual driving behaviors as a potential example.

As for the rise of value-based pricing, the report concedes that “current knowledge is mainly anecdotal.” It suggests that companies are either “moving slowly or remaining quiet, perhaps due to fears that consumers will respond negatively, but also because the methods are still being developed.”

It concludes that many concerns about price discrimination could be addressed through existing antidiscrimination, privacy, and consumer protection laws, and it recommends that companies provide more transparency about industry data practices. Swire further explained that two quotations distill the report’s key takeaways:

 (1) “The challenge for policy in this area will be to promote the application of big data where it can discourage excessive risk-taking and help solve adverse selection problems, while preventing unfair discrimination against consumers who have little control over newly-measureable risk factors.”

(2) “However, given the speed at which both the technology and business practices are evolving, commercial applications of big data deserve ongoing scrutiny, particularly where companies may be using sensitive information in ways that are not transparent to users and fall outside the boundaries of existing regulatory frameworks.”

 While further conversation about the potentially negative impacts of big data are warranted, the report takes a bullish approach toward concerns about price discrimination. As our digital footprints grow, the report states that broad trends suggest price discrimination is not yet having a negative impact on online consumer activities, and instead, consumers “are making use of the Internet and the variety of choices and tools it provides to ensure that they get a good deal.”

-Joseph Jerome, Policy Counsel



Student Privacy Pledge Crosses Milestone with 100 Signatories

Media Contacts:

FPF: Nicholas Graham, (571) 291-2967,
SIIA: Sabrina Eyob, (202) 789-4480,
PR Agency: Farrah Kim, (202) 568-8986,



Responsible Privacy Practices Affirmed by  

Growing Number of Ed-Tech Companies


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Wednesday, February 4, 2015 – The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) today announced that the groundbreaking Student Privacy Pledge now has 108 signatories. The pledge is a list of 12 commitments that school service providers have made to affirm K-12 student information is kept private and secure.


The Pledge was launched in October 2014 with 14 signatory companies, grew to 75 by early January, and has now reached a milestone – surpassing 100 signatories. The recent increase was fueled in part by President Obama’s strong support of the Pledge, announced on January 12th as part of a suite of policy proposals designed to further student privacy.


Unlike proposed legislative or regulatory actions, which may not go into effect for some period of time, the Pledge is binding and enforceable as soon as each company signs it. Signatory companies are listed online at


“Passing 100 signatories to the Student Privacy Pledge is a clear affirmation of the industry’s commitment to the responsible use of student data,” said Jules Polonetsky, executive director, FPF. “We are grateful to the President for championing the Pledge, and we applaud the companies on the Pledge for their leadership on this issue.”


“The Pledge has strong momentum, with more than 100 high-tech companies signing to articulate their safeguarding of student information,” said Mark Schneiderman, SIIA’s senior director of education policy. “Along with existing laws and school agreements, the Pledge is part of a strong legal framework that ensures teachers and students can feel safe about technology use in school.”


In addition to the Pledge, SIIA and FPF continue other student privacy leadership efforts. On February 17-18 in Washington, D.C., FPF – in partnership with ReThink Education and with participation from SIIA – is organizing and hosting its first-ever Student Privacy Boot Camp for start-ups, small, and medium-sized ed-tech companies. Similarly, SIIA has provided an analysis of existing and new student privacy laws for its member companies. These and related programs help ensure vendors handling student data understand and comply with privacy laws and best practices.


The Student Privacy Pledge outlines a dozen commitments regarding the responsible collection, maintenance, and use of student personal information. The Pledge was developed by FPF and SIIA with guidance from school service providers, educator organizations, and other stakeholders following a convening by U.S. Representatives Jared Polis (CO) and Luke Messer (IN). The Pledge has also been endorsed by the National PTA and the National School Boards Association, among others.

The full text of the Pledge, more information about how to support it, and a list of current signatories are available at

About FPF
The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) is a Washington, DC based think tank that seeks to advance responsible data practices. The forum is led by Internet privacy experts Jules Polonetsky and Christopher Wolf and includes an advisory board comprised of leading figures from industry, academia, law and advocacy groups.  For more information, visit

About SIIA

SIIA is the leading association representing the software and digital content industries. SIIA represents approximately 800 member companies worldwide that develop software and digital information content. SIIA provides global services in government relations, business development, corporate education and intellectual property protection to the leading companies that are setting the pace for the digital age. For more information, visit

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