Internet Privacy Legal News Update

Facebook IPO: Why Your Data Is Worth $93 Billion
PCWorld

(See “Protect Our Data! A Digital Consumer Bill of Rights” and “A Bill of Rights for Facebook Users” for related discussion.) The temptation to exploit user data in ways that erode privacy will always be present. Just by joining Facebook, …

Twitter Joins Google, Apple, Microsoft, Others in ‘Do Not Track Effort’
eWeek

In addition, in February the White House proposed a “bill of rights” to protect consumer privacy online, including an easy way for users to tell Internet companies with one click whether they want their online activity to be tracked.

Twitter Allows ‘Do Not Track’ Privacy Feature
CMSWire

Howard A. Schmidt is returning to the private life, but the White House is still pushing for some kind of legislation in the Consumer Prvacy Bill of Rights fashion. While the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act passed the House of …

EPIC Supports Geolocation Privacy Act, Suggests Improvement
JD Supra (press release)

Your decision to hold this hearing will help protect important privacy rights. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (“EPIC”) is a non-partisan public interest research organization established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging privacy …
See all stories on this topic »

Social Media Policies for Fashion Companies and Clothing Labels

In fashion, innovation never goes out of style. Therefore, it is no surprise that fashion houses and clothing brandsmarket across many different

Fashion (film)
Fashion (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

social media platforms. It is axiomatic that fashion marketing requires a deep understanding of the target audience, regardless of whether that knowledge comes from online or offline interaction. Social media provides a forum for a more authentic, transparent and personal engagement with the customer, but also highlights whether a brand has judged (or misjudged) its customer base.

To be successful in social media, brands need to harness the personality, wit, charm and, in all likelihood, free time of their staff. In order to ensure positive, informative and engaging social interaction, a fashion brand’s social media rules must be smart, positive and inclusive. Here are some guidelines for drafting a social media policy that will bring out the best in your brand, your employees (brand ambassadors) and your customers.

Rather than writing out a lengthy, legal boilerplate script, keep these considerations in mind when drafting your policy:

  • Philosophy. Begin with a discussion of how social media fits into an employee’s job expectations and performance. For example, guidelines are important, because if not followed “bad things” can happen, such as losing customers or vendors, the company could get into legal trouble, or worse, you could lose your job.
  • Behavioral Expectations. This is a good place to remind employees that even though it’s a big world, you are often in a small community and, on the Internet, it’s forever. What a person says can be seen by customers and employees all over the world.  Remind employees to stick to their areas of expertise and use respectful conduct. Other watch words include “timeliness” (posts should be fresh, current and relevant), “perspective” (something that may sound clever and racy to one person may be inaccurate or offensive to another), “transparency” (be the first to point out that you are an employee and make it clear that you are not a company spokesperson) and  “judiciousness” (use caution when discussing things where emotional topics like politics and religion and show respect for others’ opinions).
  • Channel expectations. If your company has a social media strategy, make sure employees know which sites (communication channels) are appropriate for which types of communications and marketing messages.
  • Contextual Expectations. Help employees understand the context within which they are engaging customers. Suggest using a conversational style. Remember that in customer’s eyes, “perception is reality.” Add value: Make sure your posts really add to the conversation. If they promote the company’s goals and values, supports the customers, improves or helps to sell products, or helps to do jobs better, then you are adding value.
  • Content Expectations. The policy must have clear and conspicuous language about what is considered company proprietary information, including current projects, trademarks, names, logos  and how they may be used. Never: (i)  discuss or post about financial information, sales trends, strategies, forecasts, legal issues and future promotional activities; (ii) post confidential or non-public information about the company; (iii) give out personal information about customers or employees; or (iv)  respond to an offensive or negative post by a customer.
  • Consequences. Lastly, be upfront about the very real consequences if mistakes are made. If a mistake occurs, correct it immediately and be clear about what’s been done to fix it. Contact the social media team if there’s a lesson to be learned.

Fashion Law: Legal News Roundup

Israel’s Ban on Ultra-Thin Models

FASHION-SAFRICA-NIGERIA-BAKARE
FASHION-SAFRICA-NIGERIA-BAKARE (Photo credit: Bohan Shen_沈伯韩)

 

The Atlantic

By Talya Minsberg A new Israeli law prohibits fashion media and advertising from using Photoshop or models who fall below the World Health Organization’s standard for malnutrition. When a 14-year-old girl delivered a 25,000-signature petition this week to Seventeen asking them to curb their use of Photoshop, the magazine issued a press statement that congratulated the girl on her ambition but was conspicuously silent on changing their editorial practices.

An Impossible Conversation About the Met’s Spring 2012 Costume Institute Exhibit

Huffington Post (satire)

So, culturally and historically, the reason women care so much about fashion is that until very recently, we weren’t allowed professional, legal or vocal ways of expressing ourselves. Fashion was a way of articulating our feelings about ourselves.

Small Aussie fashion label turns George Lucas legal threat into ‘Star 
Dallas News Small Aussie fashion label turns George Lucas legal threat into ‘Star Wars‘ clothing deal.

AsianFashionLaw | Page 5
Fashion lawyers are legal experts too. Sometimes I feel as though people think I am in design studios all day twiddling my thumbs as I look at models wearing 
www.asianfashionlaw.com/page/5/

Adidas-India’s ex-MD slaps legal notice on company – Fashion United
The Adidas-saga in India seems to be taking a different turn. – Fashion India News, Network, Business Community, fashion industry, international, platform for 
www.fashionunited.in/…/adidas-indias-ex-md-slaps-legal-notic…

Social Media World Legal News Roundup

The Government Would Like You to Write a ‘Social Media Will’
The Atlantic

This person will be responsible for closing your email addresses, social media profiles, and blogs after you are deceased. Sounds good, but legally it’s tricky territory.

Rights Groups: Asian Media Freedoms Under Fire
Voice of America

SEAPA says the key trend is that governments are shifting focus from traditional broadcast and print media to social media and online news. SEAPA Executive Director Gayathry Venkiteswaran said online news sites have become the most frequent target.

Liberia: Will Social Media Increase Civic Engagement?
Global Voices Online

CT: The growing usage of the internet and social media in Liberia is certainly a progressive trend. Having worked in Liberia, can you briefly tell us how the internet and social media are viewed by the cross sections of the Liberia population?

Global Voices Online MyCorporation Introduces New Social Media Product
Sacramento Bee

By MyCorporation CALABASAS, Calif., May 3, 2012 — /PRNewswire/ — Calabasas-based company MyCorporation is releasing a new social media product to benefit small businesses, MyCorpSocial.

Students’ racist tweets about Boston hockey game put schools in a bind
msnbc.com (blog)

Hordes of angry hockey fans – presumably Boston Bruins fans — unleashed a barrage of racist rants on Twitter and other social-networking sites after the Washington Capitals beat the defending champion Bruins a week ago Wednesday on an overtime goal.

Keep it private – your Facebook password should not be shared: Commissioner …
Canada NewsWire (press release)

Some of the issues covered in depth in the paper include: Build up a positive online social media profile. “It is absolutely crucial to remember that anything you post online may stay there forever, in one form or another, so think carefully.

Canadians encouraged to plan for online estates
CBC.ca
(CBC)

Canadian consumers are being encouraged to consider their online property, including social media accounts, when planning a will. A new report released earlier this week by the BMO Retirement Institute raises concerns.

SNOPA
Continued concern about employers asking applicants and employees for their passwords to social media sites has led to the introduction of a federal bill.

Social Media World Legal News Roundup

The legal and regulatory environment impacting social media is constantly evolving. Here is a collection of recent articles impacting everything from law enforcement use of social media to new legislation.

A social media tip line for police
Boston.com
“Use of social media has provided an additional outlet for people to interact with law enforcement” says Lauri Stevens – founder of LAwS Communications, a consulting company that helps law enforcement agencies expand into social media.

Social media limits and the law
Monterey County Herald
Leland Yee, a San Francisco Democrat, introduced a bill that would prohibit employers, public or private, from requiring or requesting in writing a prospective employee to disclose user names or passwords for personal social media accounts.

Ariz. bill says unlawful to ‘annoy’ others online
BusinessWeek
“Speaking to annoy or offend is not a crime,” Media Coalition Executive Director David Horowitz said. Horowitz said if the proposal becomes law, speech done in satire, political debate or even sports trash talking could get people in unnecessary legal trouble.

Social Media in China, Innovation
Washington Post
Apr. 2, 2012 – April 2 (Bloomberg) — Vivek Wadhwa, fellow at Stanford Law School and head of academics at Singularity University, talks about social media in China and innovation.

UAE legal experts want libel to apply to social networking sites
GMA News
Claiming that Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites can be used to spread rumors and false information, the legal community in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is seeking that libel laws be applied to offenders on the Internet.

Is Your Facebook Password Like Your Mail, House Key, or Drug Test?
The Atlantic
A day after it was proposed, the amendment was voted down — almost entirely along party lines — thus closing one door to social media privacy legislation, at least on the national level. (There are similar social media privacy laws — full bills, …

Sponsor: Arizona bill isn’t aimed at Internet trolls
CNN
The fear is that the bill would prohibit hateful comments on news and social-media sites, amounting to a ban on so-called Internet trolling. The problem: The bill won’t do any of that, its sponsor told CNN on Wednesday. “I think they’re absolutely …

How Family Law Attorneys Use Social Media Evidence [Infographic]
PR Web (press release)
Family Law Attorneys Dishon & Block formally released today an infographic that illustrates how attorneys use social media to collect “smoking gun” evidence for divorce and child custody cases. With the advancement in technology and modernizing of laws …
See all stories on this topic »
PR Web (press release)

FTC Releases Final Report With Privacy Recommendations

  • Calls for voluntary online Do Not Track system
  • Calls on Congress to pass general privacy legislation
  • White House has called for privacy bill of rights

In 2011, the Federal Trade Commission slapped Google and Facebook for violating their own privacy policies, forcing both to submit to years of privacy audits. In February, 2012 , the Obama administration issued a blueprint for a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.” The FTC, the main government agency responsible for protecting privacy, called Monday for legislation that would give consumers access to information collected about them by data brokers similar to the rights they now have to review information amassed by credit reporting agencies.

The FTC’s report comes a little over a month after the White House released its privacy bill of rights that called on companies to be more transparent about privacy and grant consumers greater access to their data but that stopped short of backing an explicit “do not track” rule. The Federal Trade Commission’s 57-page privacy report consisted of a set of “best practices” that the Internet industry is expected to follow — or face sanctions. The report mirrors many of the provisions of the “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” released by the White House and represents the first serious efforts at striking a balance in online consumer privacy protection related to web usage.

Critics contend the framework is not as extensive as the White House Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights announced back in February. That already made provision for “Do Not Track” technology, with Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and AOL – together responsible for almost 90-percent of behavioral advertising – already opting in. Privacy advocates have slammed the new” guidelines, arguing that the proposed system for ensuring online data security fails to take advantage of existing authority and relies too much on self-regulation of the online industry. The new framework “mistakenly endorses self-regulation and ‘notice and choice,’” the Electronic Privacy Information Center claims, ”and fails to explain why it has not used its current Section 5 authority to better safeguard the interests of consumers.”

Five Social Media Legal Mistakes That Your Business Is Making

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Seemingly overnight, Social media has moved from a business curiosity to an invaluable tool for customer engagement, brand positioning and employee empowerment. For example, social media use for 18-29 year olds has grown from 16% in 2005 to 89% in 2010. A recent survey, now in its third year, found that Social Media is imperative and effective to stand out in a crowded market: 88% of all marketers found that it helped increase exposure and 76% found that it increased traffic and subscriptions.

Faced with the rapid adoption of social media services and platforms, companies find themselves in a dilemma: move quickly to adapt to new technologies, or put policies in place that support marketing goals. Finding the right balance between taking appropriate business risks and minimizing legal ones is a dilemma shared by all businesses, and it can be particularly tricky in the rapidly changing realm of social media. A social media snafu could pull a business into a range of legal imbroglios, involving employment law, intellectual property rights, advertising, defamation, libel, antitrust, and privacy protection.  What follows is a list of five common social media legal mistakes that businesses are making.

1. Your Company does not have a social media policy.

Social media is going through an evolution from social media to social business. Yet In the rush to avoid being left behind, some 79% of companies do not have social media policies in place. Companies and employees are becoming deep users of Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, private-label platforms, and the like. Absence of a policy has led to lawsuits over basic issues such as ownership of LinkedIn profiles and Twitter followers. Lack of a policy could also lead to awkward situations that require a response, but may not rise to the level of a legal quandary such as public criticism by a volunteer or advisor.

Having a social media policy cannot prevent the occurrence of unintended consequences. However, it can address most risks that businesses will face and provide an informal framework for addressing issues that will inevitably arise before they become full-fledged emergencies that require a legal solution.

2. Your Company’s social media policy is unenforceable.

Not surprisingly, one of the most active legal areas of social media for business has been in the context of Employer-Employee relations. In 2011, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report stating that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had received 129 cases involving social media. The majority of claims concerned overly-restrictive employer social media policies or employee discipline and even termination based on use of social media.

More recently, the NLRB released updated guidance discussing 14 such cases in particular. Significantly, the NLRB criticized five employers’ social media policies, as  “unlawfully overly broad” (e.g., too restrictive). In four cases, an employee’s use of Facebook to complain about their employer was held to be “protected concerted activity.” The benefit for employers is that the report frames the discussion for the appropriate scope of an enforceable social media policy.

3. Your employees don’t understand your social media policy.

For companies who have drafted a social media policy, another risk is that the employees who are engaged in social media on behalf of the company or brand do not understand the policies. Training employees about what it is, how it works and what’s expected is just the beginning.

For example, Australian telecomm company Telstra is an excellent example of social media transparency. This 40,000+ employee company mandates social media training built around a manageable policy focused on “3Rs” – responsibility, respect and representation. To promote awareness and understanding, the comic book-styled policy answers simple questions like “what is Facebook?” and more complex issues like employer criticism on personal blogs. Taking it a step further, the company published their entire social media training guide online for others to study and critique.

4. Your privacy policy is out of date.

Back in the early days of the Internet “Gold Rush,” companies raced to create an online presence complete with ecommerce storefronts. Partly due to the length of time it took to get a web site up and partly due to the fear of risks associated with ecommerce, companies made sure to implement comprehensive Terms of Use and Privacy Policies. Many have not revisited those policies since.

The risks of an outdated privacy policy are twofold. First, it may be unenforceable for any number of reasons. For example, the company has changed the way it gathers and stores information about site visitors, has changed the platforms from which it gathers such data and potentially with whom it shares such data, even unwittingly.

More importantly, the dynamics of online usage and marketing have changed. The availability of GPS data and commonly used technologies for targeted advertising and related services pose new privacy risks such as leaking personally identifiable information including usernames, email addresses, first names, last names, physical addresses, phone numbers, and birthdays. A recent series of articles by the Wall Street Journal analyzed the tracking files installed on people’s computers by the 50 most popular U.S. websites, plus WSJ.com and found that some sites like dictionary.com had over 200 such tracking cookies.

Second, an outdated privacy policy may subject a business to scrutiny and even penalties from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). On October 12, 2011 the FTC announced a settlement with a file-sharing application developer over allegations that it used deceptive default privacy settings, which would lead consumers to unintentionally and unknowingly share personal files from their mobile device or computer with the public.

5. Your Company is Not Engaging In The Conversation.

Lastly, social media enables instantaneous, ubiquitous, electronic social interaction using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. The platforms and services that enable this interaction also provide an unfettered medium for defamatory statements about individuals, disparaging remarks about a companies’ products and services and inaccurate or misleading remarks by over-enthusiastic employees.

The legal risk is that a company often does not control such conversations which can quickly spiral out of control. Many web sites and blogs allow comments and invite participation by unrelated third parties. Having a strategy for when, how, and why to engage is critical to mitigate the legal risks since this area of law is notoriously fact and circumstances dependent and varies by jurisdiction.

Contact Us For a Consultation.

Is your business making one of the mistakes described above? Do you want to learn how to use social media to market and communicate with existing and prospective clients and do so in a way that minimizes potential risks and pitfalls? Hopefully, the guidance outlined above can serve as a good starting point for discussions about how best to use social media as well as suggestions regarding factors that firms may wish to consider in strengthening their compliance and risk management programs. We invite you to contact us with comments and requests about how we can help you educate your employees, prevent fraud, monitor risk, and promote compliance. We can be reached at lsglegal.com, 866-734-256, @adlerlaw and dadler@lsglegal.com.