The Program on Economics & Privacy (PEP) at George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School invited applications for the Research Roundtable on Regulating Privacy. In the past year, Congress has considered sweeping national privacy legislation, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has begun the process to implement rulemaking to curtail so-called “commercial surveillance.” Accordingly, we sought authors to develop and present original scholarly work that focuses broadly on the proper scope of privacy regulation, including the need for such regulation, the costs and benefits of such regulation, and the legal issues presented by such regulation. Issues of interest include, but are not limited to:
- The extent to which tracking in the online commercial ecosystem causes consumer harm. The extent to which the market fails to address consumer harm, and if not, the proper scope of regulation.
- The legal constraints on FTC rulemaking authority.
- The relative costs and benefits to using case-by-case adjudication as opposed to rulemaking to protect consumers from harmful data practices.
- The tradeoff between quality and quantity of online content and privacy regulation.
- The costs and benefits of regulatory proposals such as “data minimization” and “privacy by design.”
- The benefits to small businesses and competition from the online advertising ecosystem made possible by online tracking.
- The interaction between privacy and competition policy, including:
- The application of antitrust law to unilaterally and jointly adopted data processing policies
- The relationship between government-mandated privacy regulation and competition policy
- The relationship between data use in digital advertising, consumer privacy, and competition policy
- The relationship between data portability requirements, competition policy, and innovation
- The extent to which competition over firms’ data practices should be relevant to antitrust analysis
- The antitrust treatment of closed versus open platforms with aftermarkets
- The costs and benefits of algorithmic or automated decision-making.
- The extent to which differential treatment by algorithmic decision-making is harmful, and the scope of FTC legal authority to address such differential treatment.
- The effect on consumers and competition of mandated algorithmic transparency.
- The interaction between privacy, competition, and content moderation.
- The limitations placed on Congressional or FTC regulatory actions by the First Amendment or Section 230.
- The role of deception or opacity involving data practices in antitrust analysis.
Total honorarium payments of $8,000 per paper were available to those who fulfilled all the obligations of the program, which are described in detail below.
- Submission of Research Proposal – Submission Deadline of October 3, 2022:
- Proposals should include a brief abstract of the proposed paper, which includes the statement the issue to be addressed and how the proposed analysis is novel and contributes to the relevant academic literature and policy debates. Any papers that plan to include empirical project analysis should include a plan for obtaining suitable data and proposed methodology. In addition, the proposal should address the feasibility for completion by required deadlines. Proposals should be no longer than three pages. Successful applicants will be notified by October 10, 2022.
2. Research Roundtable, Antonin Scalia Law School, Arlington, VA (December 8-9, 2022):
- Selected authors will present well-developed drafts of their papers at a private research roundtable, which will be held at Antonin Scalia Law School, in Arlington, Virginia. This research roundtable is designed to provide authors with constructive feedback from expert academics and practitioners in the field. Authors chosen to present will be provided an honorarium of $3,000 per paper after presenting their work at the December roundtable. Research roundtable drafts should represent substantial work beyond the proposal, and be suitable for presentation at a faculty workshop.
3. Publication of Working Draft on SSRN (April 1, 2023):
- Authors are expected to revise their paper based on feedback from the Research Roundtable, and have a working draft suitable for publication on SSRN by April 1, 2023. PEP will host these drafts on its website (http://pep.gmu.edu) and as part of the Antonin Scalia Law School, Law & Economics Research Papers Series. Upon completion of this requirement, author(s) will receive an honorarium of $2,500 per paper.
4. Completion of Final Draft, Submission to a Suitable Academic Journal, and Creation of an Explainer Video (August 15, 2023):
- Authors are expected to seek publication in a suitable academic journal by August 15, 2023. PEP will also host these drafts on its website (http://pep.gmu.edu) and as part of the Antonin Scalia Law School, Law & Economics Research Papers Series. In addition, authors will record a brief (5-10 minutes) video explaining their work, which will also be hosted on the PEP website. Upon completion of these requirements, author(s) will receive a final honorarium of $2,500 per paper.
In addition to providing honoraria, PEP will provide lodging and meals at the Research Roundtable. Participants will be responsible for their own transportation arrangements and expenses. To submit a proposal for the Roundtable, please visit our website:
PEP’s mission is to inject sound economic analysis into policy discussions surrounding privacy, data security, and other competition and consumer protection issues facing the digital economy. We pursue this mission through research, education, and hosting public policy programs that bring together academics, thought leaders, and government officials to discuss cutting edge issues involving the digital economy.