Visualizing Federal Trade Commission Cases

November 30, 2017 | ☕️ 2 min read

Founded in 1914, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a US federal agency charged with identifying “unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent” corporate practices. The FTC files class action lawsuits and offers refunds to affected consumers. This year the FTC won cases against Western Union, Amazon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Volkswagon. While all FTC cases are publicly available, there are not many resources available that aggregate case data. Our team at the Stanford Digital Society Lab 1. broke down the distribution of types of cases the FTC pursues and 2. created a network to see which case categories tended to occur together.

While all FTC cases are publicly available, there are not many resources available that aggregate case data. Our team at the Stanford Digital Society Lab 1. broke down the distribution of types of cases the FTC pursues and 2. created a network to see which case categories tended to occur together.

FTC Case Categorizations: Findings

The top five category classifications for FTC cases are consumer protection,(16.9%) advertising and marketing (8.7%), competition (8.6%),merger (5.7%), and credit and finance (4.7%). Privacy and security accounts for 3.3% of the 2,815 available cases, which date back to 1962. Moreover, the number of privacy tagged cases handled by the FTC have doubled between the decades 2000 to 2010 and 2010 to present.

FTC Case Categorizations: Co-occurrence Network

In order to better understand the relationship between privacy cases and the FTC, our team examined the links between case tags. Recently, keyword co-occurrence networks have become popular for knowledge mapping. We created a network where each node represents a case tag, and each edge represents tags appearing together in a case.

A snapshot of the co-occurrence network illustrating the links between tags.

We found that on average, each tag is associated with 14 other tags. We see that privacy is closely associated with consumer privacy and data security (to be expected) along with advertising and marketing, automobiles, and health claims.

From our findings, we can conclude that the FTC will continue to handle privacy-related cases, with a trend of that number doubling every decade, and that these cases may continue to be at the intersection of advertising, automobiles, and health care.

Note: Our data was collected on November 29, 2017 and does not account for FTC cases published after that date.

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