Scott Jordan
Department of Computer Science University of California, Irvine
  Privacy Case Study

Privacy has long been an issue of public policy. However, whether public policy should dictate anything specific about privacy on the Internet is an issue of current debate. See the wikipedia entry on Internet Privacy for an overview.

In this case study, we will consider a set of regulations recently enacted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and recently repealed by the United States Congress. The regulations are composed of many elements, including privacy policy notices, customer approval requirements, data security, and notification of data breaches.

We will be focussing on customer approval requirements. The California Legislature is currently considering whether to reinstate a version of the FCC customer approval requirements. We will consider this California bill AB 375.

Here are materials to prepare for the case study:

Here are links to media coverage:

You'll be able to find many arguments online for and against the regulations. Here are a few:

You'll be able to find many more arguments on both sides by searching for "FCC privacy".

For a more general overview of Internet privacy issues, see Cybertelecom's page.

If you are a Lobbyist:

  • Pretend you are trying to convince the California Legislature of your position. Your classmates are California State Senators.
  • You should argue for or against AB 375. "Privacy Pro" means you should argue to vote for AB 375. "Privacy Con" means you should argue to vote against AB 375.
  • Quickly and concisely, define your position. Don't assume that the State Senators know what the issue is or what your position is.
  • Present your most persuasive arguments in the most powerful manner you can. However, be accurate.
  • Include technical, economic, and public policy aspects. You don't need to answer all of the following questions, but you should have at least one technical argument, at least one economic argument, and at least one public policy argument.
  • Technical questions:
    • What information can your Internet Service Provider collect about you?
    • Can you restrict the collection of this information using technical means, e.g. a web brower's incognito or private browsing mode?
    • Can a website restrict the collection of this information by an Internet Service Provider?
  • Economic questions:
    • What would an Internet Service Provider do with the information it may collect about you?
    • How would these regulations affect Internet Service Providers? Google? Consumers?
    • What effect would the regulations have on online commerce and online advertising?
  • Public policy questions:
    • Should regulations on Internet Service Providers regarding privacy be the same or different as regulations on Google regarding privacy?
    • What expectations of online privacy do you have?

If you are a Staffer:

  • Recomend how your State Senator should vote.
  • You can argue that he or she should vote for AB 375, that he or she should vote against AB 375, or you can propose amendments to AB 375.
  • Quickly and concisely, define your position. Assume that the class has heard the Lobbyist arguments.
  • Include technical, economic, and public policy aspects. You don't need to answer all of the following questions, but you should have at least one technical argument, at least one economic argument, and at least one public policy argument.
  • Technical questions:
    • What information can your Internet Service Provider collect about you?
    • Can you restrict the collection of this information using technical means, e.g. a web brower's incognito or private browsing mode?
    • How does this compare to information collected by Google?
  • Economic questions:
    • How much of a difference would it make if user consent were opt-in versus opt-out?
    • Would these regulations affect the price of broadband Internet service?
    • Would these regulations decrease or increase overall consumer utility?
  • Public policy questions:
    • Should regulations on Internet Service Providers regarding privacy be the same or different as regulations on Google regarding privacy?
    • Is behavioral advertising socially beneficial?
Scott Jordan last modified April 3, 2017 UCICSNetworked Systems