Loading Events

CITP Seminar: Woodrow Hartzog – Privacy’s Constitutional Moment and the Limits of Data Protection

Tuesday, March 23, 2021
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Photo Woodrow Hartzog

Congress has repeatedly failed to build a robust identity for American privacy law. But now both California and the European Union have forced Congress’s hand by passing the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These data protection frameworks, structured around principles for Fair Information Processing called the “FIPs,” have industry and privacy advocates alike clamoring for a “U.S. GDPR.” This talk will highlight the risks of U.S. lawmakers embracing a watered-down version of the European model as American privacy law enters its constitutional moment. European-style data protection rules have undeniable virtues, but they won’t be enough. Even fairly processed data can lead to oppression and abuse. Data protection frameworks ignore how industry’s appetite for data is wrecking our environment, our democracy, our attention spans, and our emotional health. Even if E.U.-style data protection were sufficient, the United States is too different from Europe to implement and enforce such a framework effectively on its European law terms. Any U.S. GDPR would in practice be a “GDPR-Lite.” In the United States, a data protection model cannot do it all for privacy, though if current trends continue, we will likely entrench it as though it can.


Woodrow Hartzog is a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University School of Law and the Khoury College of Computer Sciences. He is also a resident fellow at the Center for Law, Innovation and Creativity (CLIC) at Northeastern University, a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, a non-resident fellow at The Cordell Institute for Policy in Medicine & Law at Washington University, and an affiliate scholar at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. His research on privacy, media, and robotics has been published in scholarly publications such as the Yale Law Journal, Columbia Law Review, and California Law Review and popular publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian. He has testified multiple times before Congress and has been quoted or referenced by numerous media outlets, including NPR, BBC, and The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of Privacy’s Blueprint: The Battle to Control the Design of New Technologies, published in 2018 by Harvard University Press.

To request accommodations for a disability please contact Jean Butcher, , at least one week prior to the event.