Social Media & The Law: Recent Developments in Privacy, Security & Media

Statute Puts Online Libraries and Other Service Providers at Risk
Kansas City infoZine

A New Washington State Law Intends to Make Online Service Providers Criminally Liable For Online Postings. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is representing the Internet Archive in order to block the enforcement of SB 6251, a law aimed at combating advertisements for underage sex workers but with vague and overbroad language that is squarely in conflict with federal law.

NLRB General Counsel Issues Further Guidance on Social Media
National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) is closely scrutinizing employer social media policies.

Legal issues in the media
Social Media Legal, Regulatory & Compliance: Risks & Issues Social Media Slideshare presentation.

Putting the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights into Practice
Providing transparency in how consumer data is handled by mobile applications – this is the first topic for the National Telecommunications and Information…

US lawmakers propose digital bill of rights to safeguard privacy …
Two US lawmakers have proposed a digital bill of rights to safeguard consumer privacy rights and ensure internet freedom.

Stakeholders to Discuss Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will convene stakeholders July 12, 2012 in Washington, DC to develop a privacy code of conduct.

David M. Adler Speaking on Law & Social Data Panel at Chicago TechWeek 2012

Chicago is a new kind of technology hub, and the Techweek Conference is a new type of technology conference.

The Techweek 2012 Conference showcases the technology renaissance evolving in Chicago and the midwest. June 22-26, 2012

Law & Social Data
The past few years have witnessed an explosion of legal and regulatory activity involving social and other new media. This session will examine several key areas, including copyright, trademark and related intellectual property concerns; defamation, obscenity and related liability; false advertising and marketing restrictions; gaming; data privacy issues presented by social media; and impacts of social media on employees and the workplace. Attendees will learn how to identify legal risks and issues before they become full-scale emergencies and how to develop appropriate policies and guidelines covering social media activity.

Sunday June 24, 2012 3:00pm – 3:45pm @ 3 – 8 A/B (222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago, IL)

Social Media & The Law: Weekly Recap June 15, 2012

Here are some of the Social Media Legal headlines from around the world this week.

Pinterest hires Google’s former top lawyer
GMA News

Pinterest remains a hot social media property, registering major growth in recent months. Business Insider said investors just gave it another $50 million at a $1.5-billion valuation, and employees are leaving other Silicon Valley firms to join.

In the Arab World, Social Media Has Fast Developed into a Medium for the Masses
Knowledge@Wharton

A surprising outcome from a recent survey, that social media has an equalizing factor among men and women. They’ve got the same reaction to issues, for instance related to women.

Mobile App Lets You Document and Report Police Stop-and-Frisk Abuse
Mashable

The New York Civil Liberties Union is arming city residents and visitors with an app called Stop and Frisk Watch that records video, audio and GPS data.

FBI Highlights Social Media Risks

BllombergBNA

Last year, some users saw on their Facebook walls enticing posts offering video of Osama bin Laden’s capture. Those that clicked on the link and followed the provided directions ended up giving hackers access to their Facebook accounts; they were victims of a social media scam.

GPS, Location Data & Privacy Legal News Roundup

Congress Advances Bill To Protect Cell Phone Users’ Privacy
Forbes

The Supreme Court showed unanimity in its discomfort with electronically tracking people without a warrant in its GPS tracking decision in January. But as conveyed by the justices’ written opinions, the splintered reasoning behind rebuking the practice of placing a geo-tracking device on someone’s car without a warrant laid bare the disconnect between how far our technology has come and the outdated privacy protection laws that are struggling to keep pace.

Location Bill Would Slow Down Investigations, Officials Say
PC Magazine

At issue is the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act. Different jurisdictions have issued conflicting rulings about how to handle location-based data.

Police Efforts to Ban Citizen Taping Beaten Back by Obama’s DOJ
DailyTech

Cell phone data grabbing, GPS tracking, “national security letters”. Law enforcement argues that accountability via taping violates officers rights to privacy. ACLU disagrees.

Cops, ACLU clash over GOP bill tracking mobile phones
The Hill

The Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act, sponsored by Reps. … if a grand jury prosecutor could subpoena historical GPS data in an investigation, …

Privacy Alert: Privacy Legal News Roundup

State Worker Notebook: Privacy a concern for some employees
Statesman Journal

The idea of context-specific privacy is gaining a lot of cachet, so much so that the Obama administration features it as a major aspect of a proposed new Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. “Consumers have a right to expect that companies will collect, store and use personal information in a manner consistent with the context within which it’s collected.

Third annual Privacy Identity Innovation conference opens today in Seattle
Virtual-Strategy Magazine

The White House recently recommended a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, and the European Union is days away from requiring companies to get consent from website visitors before storing advertising cookies on their devices.

San Francisco Tackles the Issue of Unlawful Government Surveillance
Highbrow Magazine
by Elliot Owen

San Francisco civil rights advocates who are concerned about what they call domestic spying on the city’s Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities are celebrating new legislation signed into law on May 9.

US Senator Takes Wrong Turn on DOJ’s GPS Tracking Requests
eWeek

US Senator Al Franken’s letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the US Justice Department requests for GPS location data from phone companies appears to be based on a flawed understanding of the law.

Failure of credit-reporting agencies to fix mistakes afflicts thousands
Toledo Blade

They can look like harmless errors: A misspelled name. A transposed number. A paid debt listed as past due. Mistakes on credit reports can inflict widespread damage. And because there are insufficient rules on how credit-reporting agencies must correct them, Americans are left virtually powerless to erase the mistakes.

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.

Regulated Industries – Social Media Legal & Regulatory Compliance

Seal of the United States Federal Trade Commis...
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For the past year and a half, I have been traveling to various conferences around the country to speak on Legal and Regulatory compliance in social media. In the beginning, case law and regulatory guidance was scarce and little information was available to provide businesses engaged in social media with a roadmap for Social Media Legal and Regulatory compliance. However, a lot has changed over the last year and a clear trend is emerging. Industry regulators are aware of the use – and abuse – of social media by their members. This article examines recent guidance provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).

Social Media in Marketing, Advertising & Commerce.

The FTC has a prime directive to protect consumers. In the social media sphere, the FTC has pursued this mandate by enforcing companies’ Terms of Use and privacy policies. In addition, the FTC has recently issued updated guidance for companies and individuals that review, promote, advertise or otherwise write about various products and services. In 2009, the FTC tackled its first social media case, an investigation involving Twitter. The focus of the FTC action was Twitter’s privacy policy that asserted A concern about safeguarding confidentiality of personally identifiable information and privacy settings designed to designate tweets as private.

The settlement, first announced in June 2010, resolved charges that Twitter deceived consumers and put their privacy at risk by failing to safeguard their personal information. Lapses in the Twitter’s data security allowed hackers to obtain unauthorized administrative control of Twitter, including both access to non-public user information and tweets that consumers had designated as private, and the ability to send out phony tweets from any account. Under the terms of the settlement, Twitter has hit ended and ongoing obligations concerning consumers and the extent to which it protects the security, privacy, and confidentiality of nonpublic consumer information, including the measures it takes to prevent unauthorized access to nonpublic information and honor the privacy choices made by consumers.

In a similar action, the FTC settled and investigation into Facebook,the leading social media platform/service. The social networking service agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public. The settlement requires Facebook to take several steps to make sure it lives up to its promises in the future, including giving consumers clear and prominent notice and obtaining consumers’ express consent before their information is shared beyond the privacy settings they have established.

Read the FTC update here.

As recently as January 10, 2012, the FTC reached a settlement with UPromise, Inc., stemming from charges that the company – a membership reward service – allegedly used a web-browser toolbar to collect consumers’ personal information, without adequately disclosing the extent of personal information collected. The FTC found that the toolbar was collecting the names of all websites visited by its users as well as information entered into web pages by those users, including user names, passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers and other financial and/or sensitive data. Furthermore, this data was transmitted in unencrypted, clear text that could be intercepted or viewed by third parties in a WiFi environment. The result? UPromise had to destroy all data it collected under the “Personalized Offers” feature of its “TurboSaver” toolbar in addition to other obligations related to data collection practices and consent to collection of personal information.

Other Industry Guidance.

In October 2009, the Federal Trade Commission released it’s updated “FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” The updated Guides contain two notable areas of concern for marketers. First, the Guides removed the safe harbor for advertisements featuring a consumer’s experience with a product or service, the so-called “results not typical” disclosure. Second, the FTC Guides underscored the longstanding principle of disclosing “material connections” between advertisers and the consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities providing reviews and endorsements of products and services.

For concise guidance on when, how and what to disclose, see my article here.

Social Media in the Healthcare & Pharmaceutical Industries.

Like other consumer-oriented industries, Pharmaceutical and Biotech firms are rapidly expanding their presence online. This growth over the past several years has not gone unnoticed as evidenced by FDA Warning Letters targeting marketing campaigns “broadcast” via websites and social media platforms. The FDA also provides more general guidance for the industry. Policy and guidance development for promotion of FDA-regulated medical products using the Internet and social media tools are available in the FDA’s Consumer-Directed Broadcast Advertisements Questions and Answers. While this document provides clear direction for traditional media broadcasting , it only skims the surface regarding web content.

Social Media in the Workplace.

Probably no other federal agency has been as active as the NLRB in recent months. The NLRB has a mandate to protect employees rights to organize and discuss working conditions without fear of reprisals from employers. On August 8, 2011, the Associate General Counsel for the NLRB released a memo entitled “Report of the Acting General Counsel Concerning Social Media Cases.The report began by analyzing a case of first impression: whether an Employer unlawfully discharged five employees who had posted comments on Facebook relating to allegations of poor job performance previously expressed by one of their coworkers.

On January 25, 2012, the NLRB released a second report describing social media cases handled by the NLRB. The “Operations Management Memo” available here, covers 14 cases, half of which involve questions about employer social media policies. Five of those policies were found to be unlawfully broad, one was lawful, and one was found to be lawful after it was revised.

The remaining cases involved discharges of employees after they posted comments to Facebook. Several discharges were found to be unlawful because they flowed from unlawful policies. But in one case, the discharge was upheld despite an unlawful policy because the employee’s posting was not work-related. The report underscores two main points made in an earlier compilation of cases: 1) policies should not sweep so broadly that they prohibit the kinds of activity protected by federal labor law, such as the discussion of wages or working conditions among employees; and 2) an employee’s comments on social media are generally not protected if they are mere gripes not made in relation to group activity among employees.

Social Media and the Financial Services Industry.

From the Madoff scandal, to the Occupy Wall Street Movement, to Mitt Romney’s tax returns, the financial services sector is accustomed to the scrutiny and ire of the public and government regulators. Therefore it is no surprise that on January 4, 2012, the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, in coordination with other SEC staff, including in the Division of Enforcement’s Asset Management Unit and the Division of Investment Management, issued its “Investment Adviser Use of Social Media” paper. The paper begins by observing that although “many firms have policies and procedures within their compliance programs” governing use of social media” there is wide “variation in the form and substance of the policies and procedures.” The staff noted that many firms have multiple overlapping procedures that apply to advertisements, client communications or electronic communications generally, which may or may not specifically include social media use. Such lack of specificity may cause confusion as to what procedures or standards apply to social media use.

The SEC paper suggests that the following factors are relevant to determining the effectiveness of a Social Media compliance program:

  • Usage Guidelines
  • Content Standards
  • Monitoring
  • Frequency of Monitoring
  • Approval of Content
  • Firm Resources
  • Criteria for Approving Participation
  • Training
  • Certification
  • Functionality of web sites and updates thereto
  • Personal/Professional sites
  • Information security
  • Enterprise-wide web site content cross collateralization

Similarly, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has issued guidance for secutires brokerage firms. According to its web site, FINRA “is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States.” FINRA protects American investors by ensuring fairness and honesty in the securities industry. In January 2010, FINRA issued Regulatory Notice 10-06, providing guidance on the application of FINRA rules governing communications with the public to social media sites and reminding firms of the recordkeeping, suitability, supervision and content requirements for such communications. Since its publication, firms have raised additional questions regarding the application of the rules. Key take aways from FINRA’s guidance include the flowing:

  • Brokerages have supervisory and record keeping obligations based on the content of the communications – whether it is business related – and not the media
  • Broker-dealers must track and supervise messages that deal with business
  • Firms must have systems in place to supervise and retain interactions with customers, if they are made through personal mobile devices
  • A broker must get approval from the firm if she mentions her employer on a social media site
  • Pre-approval for instant messages, also known as “unscripted interactions’ in legalese, is not necessary as long as supervisors are informed after the fact

Conclusion.

Many professionals in regulated industries are eager to leverage social media to market and communicate with existing and prospective clients and to increase their visibility. However, participants must ensure compliance with all of the regulatory requirements and awareness of the risks associated with using various forms of social media. Hopefully, the guidance outlined above can serve as a good starting point for discussions about how best to use of social media as well as suggestions regarding factors that firms may wish to consider is helpful to firms 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.com866-734-256, @adlerlaw and dadler@lsglegal.com.

Five Things To Know Now

Here are five interesting articles to look at this weekend.

1. Copyright Fair Use Gets a Boost. Last Friday, the federal district court in Nevada held that the non-profit organization Center for Intercultural Organizing’s posting of a copyrighted news article was a non-infringing fair use. The well-reasoned opinion sets a powerful precedent for fair use and against copyright trolling. http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/04/righthaven-v-cio-it-s-hard-out-here-troll

2. Proper Authentication of Social Media “Evidence” Used at Trial. The Maryland Court of Appeals in the case of Griffin v. State examined a relatively new social media legal issue: determining the appropriate way to authenticate at trial electronically stored information printed from a social networking site. http://www.marylandinjurylawyerblog.com/2011/04/the_maryland_court_of_appeals_2.html

3. Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011 Does Not Spell Do Not Track. Although the proposed law requires disclosure of “clear, concise and timely notice” of a company’s privacy policies and practices regarding the collection, use and distribution of personally identifiable information, the bill does not include specific authorization for a do-not-track mechanism. http://www.itbusinessedge.com/cm/blogs/bentley/senators-formally-introduce-online-privacy-bill/?cs=46477

4. Is Your Web Site Eligible For Trade Dress Protection? While Copyright law protects certain original expression from unauthorized copying, Trade dress law protects commercial use of certain distinct features in connection with a product or service. When consumers associate such “look & feel” features with a product or service, trade dress protection exists. Protection has been extended to the packaging of a product, the décor of restaurant, the design of magazine covers, and even kiosk displays.

In Conference Archives v. Sound Images, 2010 WL 1626072 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 31, 2010), a federal district judge in the Western District of Pennsylvania suggested that under the concept of “look and feel,” trade dress law can reach beyond static elements on a website, such as photos, colors, borders, or frames, to include interactive elements and/or the overall mood, style, or impression of the site since a graphical user interface promotes the intuitive use of the website.” Conference Archives, 2010 WL 1626072 at *15.

5. Do We Need An Open Wireless Regime? See what the EFF has to say. http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/04/open-wireless-movement

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David M. Adler, Esq. is an attorney, author, educator, entrepreneur and founder of a boutique intellectual property law firm based in Chicago, Illinois. With over fourteen years of legal experience, Mr. Adler created the firm with a specific mission in mind: to provide businesses with a competitive advantage by enabling them to leverage their intangible assets and creative content in a way that drives innovation and increases the overall value of the business. Learn more about me HERE and HERE

David M. Adler, Esq. & Assoc.: Safeguarding Ideas, Relationships & Talent®