Chris Jay Hoofnagle

Senior Fellow
choofnagle [at]
B.A., University of Georgia, 1996
J.D., University of Georgia School of Law, 2000


Chris Jay Hoofnagle is senior fellow to the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic and Director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology’s Information Privacy Programs. He co-chairs the Privacy Law Scholars Conference.

His first academic writing argued that civil libertarians’ focus on government collection of information and inattention to similar activities by marketing companies cleared the way for private-sector organizations to create the very “federal data center” that the Privacy Act of 1974 was intended to prevent. Big Brother’s Little Helpers discussed the rise of commercial data brokers; argued that privacy risks from the government and commercial firms were similar, and that federal privacy laws that limit government collection of information should apply to private firms. These ideas were presented in the Emmy award winning documentary, Big Brother, Big Business. After commercial data brokers suffered security breaches, he articulated a framework for regulating the industry in A Model Regime of Privacy, with Professor Daniel J. Solove.

Hoofnagle’s recent work focuses on financial institutions as gatekeepers in the prevention of identity theft. In Identity Theft: Making the Unknown Knowns Known, he discusses the problem of “synthetic identity theft,” a form of crime where an impostor fabricates personal information and yet still can obtain credit accounts. Hoofnagle argues that the rise of this form of fraud demonstrates a fundamental failure in banks’ anti-fraud gatekeeper function, and suggests market reforms for reducing identity theft.

With Jennifer King, Hoofnagle has started a consumer privacy survey research project. This work tests notions of consumer autonomy underlying self-regulatory schemes to protect consumer privacy.

Prior to joining Berkeley Law, Hoofnagle was a non-residential fellow with Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society. Prior to that, Hoofnagle focused on regulation of telemarketing, financial services privacy, and credit reporting at the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, DC. He was the author of an amicus brief in Remsburg v. Docusearch, a case in which the Supreme Court of New Hampshire held that private investigators have a duty to exercise reasonable care towards individuals being investigated, and that individuals may bring common law privacy claims against investigators who acquire personal information through pretexting. He also authored an amicus brief in Kehoe v. Fidelity Federal Bank and Trust, in which the 11th Circuit held that individuals do not need to demonstrate harm to collect monetary damages from invasions of privacy. The decision makes it economically viable for individuals to vindicate privacy rights in court, and resulted in a $50 million settlement including direct payments to thousands of affected plaintiffs.

He is licensed to practice in California and Washington, DC.