Explanation for Consumer Privacy Law


Privacy is a complex, malleable and flexible concept that is influenced by evolving social, political, economic, technological and ethical factors.  Privacy means different things to different people at different periods of time.  It is not a concept that is susceptible to a simple description or definition.   Consequently, there are many different, sometimes competing, definitions of privacy and scholars and courts have struggled to find a common understanding and application of the term.  Privacy law has become an umbrella term that encompasses physical and mental privacy (the so called “right to be left alone”), informational privacy (which concerns the collection, use, protection and regulation of personal information), decisional privacy (which concerns the freedom to make decisions about one’s body, family, and personal life without government interference), associational privacy (which implicates access and exclusion issues), confidential and proprietary privacy (which concerns ownership,  control and contractual rights) and anonymity (which shields a person from unwanted attention).

In the U.S., the legal bases for the enforcement of privacy rights, however defined, is an interrelated hodgepodge of tort common law, federal and state constitutional law, federal and state statutory law, evidentiary privileges, professional ethical rules and consensual or contractual agreements.  The word “privacy” appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution, but a right of privacy has been inferred from numerous provisions of the Constitution, including the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Because privacy rights are best understood contextually, we have divided the discussion in to several broad subject matter categories.  This section focusses on consumer privacy.  

Consumer privacy law in the U.S. is derived from several sources, both state and federal. There is not one overarching statute regulating the use of personal information, and often privacy regulation depends on the sector or industry. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) uses the portion of the FTC Act barring "unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce" to police privacy violations. Both federal and state statutes also address consumer privacy concerns, often making distinctions based on the industry in question. This section will (1) review the role of the FTC in consumer privacy (2) discuss eleven specific federal statutes related to consumer privacy (3) discuss six general types of state statutes related to consumer privacy (4) consider the implications of the Internet of Things on consumer privacy and (5) examine the preventive measures available through privacy by design.

Utah statutes regarding revenge porn, data breach notification, expungement and Peeping Tom laws have been mapped as have the California statutes regarding anti-paparazzi measures and the so-called right to be forgotten.

Created by Laura Biber on July 21, 2016 0 2351