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CITP Luncheon Speaker Series: Joel Reidenberg – Privacy Policy Ambiguity and the Impact of Regulation

Tuesday, October 13, 2015
12:30 pm


Sherrerd Hall, 3rd floor open space
Princeton, NJ 08544 United States + Google Map

Food and discussion begin at 12:30 pm. Open to current Princeton faculty, staff, and students. Open to members of the public by invitation only. Please contact Laura Cummings-Abdo at if you are interested in attending a particular lunch.

Website privacy policies often contain ambiguous language that undermines the purpose and value of the privacy policy for site users. Without clear affirmative statements, privacy policies are, in effect, meaningless; they would provide no enforceable declarations, convey no true indication to users of the website’s actual practices, and frustrate the development of natural language processing and machine learning tools to better empower users protect their privacy. Reducing ambiguity is, thus, essential for the usability of privacy policies and for the development of automated tools to assist users understand website practices. In this talk, Reidenberg will discuss his team’s work on the creation of an ontology of terms to score and compare the ambiguity of privacy policies in multiple online sectors. He will report on the findings that compare the vagueness of unregulated privacy policies to those of websites subject to two different regulatory models that establish parameters for privacy notices. He will then discuss how this comparative methodology and the technical tools developed for the scoring can be used to establish benchmarks for clarity, create guidelines for the drafting of privacy policies and empower regulators to more effectively target defective privacy policies for remedial action.


Joel R. Reidenberg is the Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Chair and Professor of Law at Fordham University where he directs the Center on Law and Information Policy. He was the inaugural Microsoft Visiting Professor of Information Technology Policy at Princeton and has also taught as a visiting professor at the University of Paris-Sorbonne and Sciences Po-Paris. Reidenberg publishes regularly on both information privacy and on information technology law and policy. He is a member of the American Law Institute and an Advisor to the ALI’s Restatement (Third) on Privacy Principles. Reidenberg has served as an expert adviser to the U.S. Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, the European Commission and the World Intellectual Property Organization. At Fordham, Reidenberg previously served as the University’s Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and, prior to his academic career, he was an associate at the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton. Reidenberg is a graduate of Dartmouth College, earned a J.D. from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in law from the Université de Paris –Sorbonne. He is admitted to the Bars of New York and the District of Columbia.