Course Syllabus

Advanced Privacy Topics:
The Federal Trade Commission and Privacy

3 Credits
Thursdays 3:35-6:15
Boalt Hall Room 240

Chris Hoofnagle

Lecturer in Residence

School of Law

344 Boalt Hall



Office Hours: Tuesdays from 10-12 or by appointment. Hoofnagle is generally in his office any given day from 10-4.


Deirdre Mulligan

Associate Professor

School of Information

212 South Hall



Office Hours: Thursdays 11-12

276P.1 sec. 1

Course Control No. 49934

Info 296A

Course Control No. 41644


Course Description

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the primary regulator of consumer information privacy in the United States. Its activities, often in the style of public settlement agreements with companies, form the most important regulation of information privacy. Since the agency’s wave of internet privacy cases in the 2000s, the practice of information privacy law has grown dramatically. The leading practice group for privacy law, the International Association of Privacy Professionals, founded in 2000, now has over 18,000 members.

The FTC has a colorful, 100-year history. It is a complex agency. Practice before the agency has suffered because of a lack of familiarity with the agency’s broad powers and diverse responsibilities in commerce. This seminar offers a deep dive into the agency’s history, procedure, and substance of its privacy law to prepare Berkeley students for sophisticated interactions with the FTC.

This course is jointly enrolled with the School of Information. Students will be expected to participate in seminar discussions, complete a group project, and a final paper. The group assignment will focus on analysis of some technology or business practice from several different perspectives (consumer advocacy group, trade association, a company, etc.). The final paper will analyze a policy issue for the FTC. This work should be 30 pages to satisfy the seminar requirement.


Thirty percent of your grade will be based upon your in-class discussion and participation; 20 percent will be based upon your group project, and 50 percent upon your final paper.

Class participation accounts for 30% of your grade. You are expected to fully participate--present, actively listen, engage with your classmates and the materials, bring your own insights to the discussion, share your experience and knowledge. Please come prepared to argue, explain, revise, borrow, refine, and of course junk your ideas. Thinking out loud is encouraged. This is how one learns. The success of this class depends upon student's diligent preparation and active participation--both listening and speaking--in class.

JDs will be graded under the small seminar curve.


All readings will be on bCourses.


In addition to class participation, you will write a final paper. This could be an analysis of a privacy issue relevant to the FTC.  It could be an assessment of a new industry practice or a policy approach for some privacy problem. It could be an analysis of a developing area of practice (including a new technology). Particularly useful is a deep dive into the facts of the technology and whether it raises new concerns or falls through the cracks of existing protections. If the analysis includes policy recommendations, it should also address counterarguments, and comport with the agency’s jurisdiction and rules. Reading recent Commissioner speeches or staff reports on privacy is a great way to identify topics of interest. Alternatively, you could write about a FTC rule or procedure, or some broader policy issue before the Commission (see Hoofnagle for more details).

Class Schedule

Please note, the School of Information follows the campus calendar, and thus starts one week later than the School of Law. As a result, we will start on Thursday, January 22nd. We will make up this first class on Friday, April 24th.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due