Facebook To EU: Please Review Our WhatsApp Deal

WhatsApp Usually, companies don't want to be subjected to regulatory scrutiny. However this time, it appears, Facebook is actively soliciting antitrust review of its roughly $19 billion WhatsApp acquisition from the European Commission. As explained in a Wall Street Journal article the strategy appears to be an end run around individual country regulatory authorities, seeking to avoid antitrust investigations in multiple nations. Facebook has reportedly indicated that it faces potential antitrust review in the UK, Spain and Cyprus. Interestingly, because there are few revenue implications from th [...]

Could “Liking” A Brand On Facebook Waive Your Legal Rights?

social-media-dislike-thumb-down-featured There is a very disturbing trend in the world of corporate terms and conditions. Consumers (and small merchants) are increasingly being forced by fine-print clauses into binding arbitration to resolve disputes with companies. The very pro-business US Supreme Court not long ago ruled this was entirely legal. What it means as a practical matter is that individuals give up their right to sue in court as well as the right to join together in class action litigation against corporations. The problem is that consumers, even if they're permitted to sue individually, won't because they don't h [...]

Angry Parents Seek To Kill $20 Million Facebook “Sponsored Stories” Settlement

facebook-legal-600 Last August Facebook settled a class action lawsuit for $20 million. The suit claimed "Sponsored Stores" ads misappropriated Facebook users’ likenesses without consent. The company has decided to "sunset" Sponsored Stores but will continue to display ads that utilize member images and Likes. The settlement was approved over a number of objections arguing that minors’ privacy rights were not sufficiently protected under its terms. Child advocates had wanted explicit opt-in parental consent before minors’ images/Likes could be used in ads. The settlement contained mechanisms to solici [...]

Facebook Sued Under Federal Wiretapping Law For Mining Private Messages

facebook-legal-law-books-featured Facebook faces a potential class action lawsuit ("Matthew Campbell v. Facebook Inc.") for allegedly violating the US Electronic Communications Privacy Act and California privacy and unfair competition laws. At issue is the company's alleged practice of scanning private Facebook messages (first discovered in 2012) for URLs and then using that information as part of its ad targeting data. Reportedly it treats the presence of the URL in a private message as a Like of that publisher or content. The complaint essentially argues: Facebook's statements to users creates expectations of pri [...]

Facebook’s Recent Privacy Policy Updates Take Effect Today

Facebook-Home-Logo Facebook's controversial privacy policy updates -- announced back in August -- are taking effect today. In a blog post today, the company goes out of its way to explain that the update doesn't change Facebook's advertising policies, it only changed the language in Facebook's official policy documents. One of the controversial word changes, however, has been removed -- a sentence related to minors and their parents. The language said that Facebook was assuming parental consent of the company's potential use of personal information in connection with sponsored content. In today's announcem [...]

FTC Opens New Facebook Investigation Over Privacy Changes

facebook Privacy continues to be Facebook's nemesis. The company's envelope-pushing approach to privacy has repeatedly been the subject of complaints and litigation over the years. And now it's caught between a court-mandated settlement and the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Facebook recently settled a "Sponsored Stories" class action lawsuit for $20 million. That suit argued that Facebook had misappropriated users’ likenesses and other content without their consent. On August 29 Facebook updated its privacy policies to reflect the terms of that settlement. The major change is reflected in th [...]

Facebook May Expand Use Of Facial Recognition To Billion+ Public User Profile Pictures

facebook-logo-sm After Facebook announced updates to its Data Use Policy this week, Reuters is reporting that the social network is considering applying its facial recognition technology to user profile pictures, adding over a billion public profile photos to the site's facial recognition database. According to Reuters, Facebook leverages the facial recognition technology for its "Tag Suggest" feature, automatically identifying users in newly uploaded photos by comparing faces in a picture to previous photos where the user was tagged. Facebook told Reuters that expanding its facial recognition technology to [...]

Facebook Updates Policies On How User Data Is Used In Advertising

facebook-target-aim-featured Following this week's "sponsored stories" legal settlement, Facebook is following court orders by updating the documents that explain how the company collects and uses data -- particularly in advertisements. Close observers of Facebook's privacy and usage documents may want to check out the "redline" PDFs for the Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which clearly show the new language that Facebook is proposing. The biggest clarification in the latter document, and the one specifically referring to the recent legal settlement, comes in a section titled About Adve [...]

Facebook Govt Data Requests Dominated By US

Facebook world 2 Facebook released its Government Data Requests report, covering the first half of 2013. The country with the most requests by far is the US. India is next in line and then several European countries follow: Germany, France, UK and Italy. Yet none of the volume of these "next in order" countries even begins to approach the level of the US, which had up to 12,000 data requests from 21,000 user accounts. Below is a condensed  version of Facebook's table, which is available in its entirety in the post. Here's Facebook's statement about the nature of these requests and its procedure for [...]

Facebook Settles “Sponsored Stories” Litigation For $20 Million

likes-featured Yesterday, a court in San Francisco approved settlement of potential class action litigation against Facebook over its Sponsored Stories program. Sponsored Stores are ads that include identification of users' friends who've "liked" the advertiser. Facebook has agreed to pay $20 million to end the case. The settlement was approved over various objections including the argument that minors' privacy rights are not sufficiently protected under the terms of the settlement. Child advocates had wanted parental approval before minors' content could be used commercially. The essence of plaintiffs [...]

Google, Facebook In Transparency Battle Over PRISM Disclosures

online privacy Last night, what might be called a "transparency battle" erupted between Google and Facebook following Facebook's disclosure of government-related user-data requests: For the six months ending December 31, 2012, the total number of user-data requests Facebook received from any and all government entities in the U.S. (including local, state, and federal, and including criminal and national security-related requests) – was between 9,000 and 10,000. These requests run the gamut – from things like a local sheriff trying to find a missing child, to a federal marshal tracking a fugitive, to a p [...]

Federal Appeals Court To Decide If Facebook “Likes” Are Protected Speech

Facebook attorneys told a federal appeals court Thursday that "likes" deserve free-speech protection, and anything less would "would result in chilling the very valued means for communication the Internet has made possible." As Bloomberg reports, the argument is part of a case in which an employee from the Hampton, Virginia sheriff's department says he was fired after "liking" a Facebook Page that belonged to his bosses' election opponent. That employee, Danny Carter, was one of six sheriff's employees fired after the election, Bloomberg says. The six sued their boss, claiming the firin [...]

Facebook Settles Litigation Over “Timelines” Trademark

computer-internet-legal-law-featured Facebook has settled its trademark-infringement litigation over the term Timeline. This was first reported by InsideFacebook based on an SEC filing: We are also party to various legal proceedings and claims which arise in the ordinary course of business. Among these legal matters, in two cases, Summit 6 LLC v. Research in Motion Corporation et al., and Timelines, Inc. v. Facebook, Inc. , we have reached agreements to settle the matters. The cost of settlement in each case, which is included in the accompanying condensed consolidated financial statements for the three months ended March 31, 20 [...]

Facebook Loses Motion, Faces Likely Trial Over Timelines Trademark

Recall that there was a small photo-centric site out of Chicago run by former ShopLocal executives. That site called/calls itself Timelines (plural). It obtained federal trademark registration for its name. Then, Facebook came along and used that term for its, well, Timeline. Timelines has a number of other photo-oriented sites and apps such as Photogram. Timelines the company offered to sell itself or the trademark to Facebook but the latter declined. The smaller company felt that it was only a matter of time before it would simply go out of business because its name and brand were now [...]

Facebook Wins (Temporary) Reprive From Fake Names In Germany

facebook-globe-world-200 The AP is reporting that a German court has invalidated a decision of the German privacy regulator, which opposes Facebook's real names/identities policy. Privacy regulators oppose the Facebook policy on the grounds that German and European privacy and free-speech rules prohibit a ban on fake names. However the court's decision is not based on German law. According to the AP report, "The administrative court in northern German Schleswig argued in its ruling Thursday that German privacy laws weren't applicable because Facebook has its European headquarters in Ireland - which has less far-rea [...]

Facebook, AddThis Face Lawsuit Over ‘Like’ Button

facebook-like-thumb-icon Facebook and AddThis, the social sharing platform company, are named as defendants in a lawsuit that claims two violations of patent infringement law. Rembrandt Social Media, a patent-holding company, filed the suit last week in Virginia, saying that Facebook infringed on two of its patents and AddThis on one. As Ars Technica reported, Rembrandt is working with the family of Joannes Jozef Everardus Van Der Meer, a Dutch programmer described in the lawsuit as "a pioneer in the development of user-friendly Web-based technologies," who died in 2004. Van Der Meer, who once owned the surfb [...]

Instagram Makes Nice With Revised New Terms Of Use. Will Users Be Satisfied?

instagram-featured Just two days after a social media storm erupted over Instagram's proposed new terms of service, the Facebook-owned company -- as promised -- has come up with revisions, in an effort to "communicate our intentions clearly." Rather than say the company's plans themselves led to the controversy, co-founder Kevin Systrom has painted it all as a misunderstanding, where poor wording in its terms caused confusion among users -- many of whom said publicly that they were deleting their accounts over the changes. The first section that people were up in arms about referred to a "non-exclusive, fu [...]

Facebook’s $20 Million Sponsored Story Settlement Has Been Approved By Judge

Facebook-Ads Its looking like Facebook will be a few million lighter after a California judge gave a preliminary approval of a 20 million dollar settlement stemming from Sponsored Story ads. When launched, the Sponsored Story ads didn't protect user privacy adequately, which outraged a handful of users as they were unable to opt-out of the program. The Mercury News is reporting that the $20 million is to be set away, in cash, to pay out those users who objected to their names being used in advertisements. Facebook has allegedly also agreed to create new controls that allow users to opt-out of the p [...]

FTC Approves Facebook Privacy Settlement Reached Last November

ftc-privacy-security-featured As was widely expected, the Federal Trade Commission has given final approval to the privacy settlement it reached with Facebook last year. The agreement -- unlike the $22.5 million agreement with Google announced yesterday -- doesn't call for any monetary penalty. It does, however, require Facebook to undergo privacy audits from an independent third party every two years for 20 years. Additionally, the company says it will now give consumers "clear and prominent" notice of its privacy practices, obtaining "express consent" before sharing their information beyond the limits to which were or [...]

Norway Investigating Facebook Facial Recognition Tagging

facebook-mask-featured Facebook's automated system of suggesting image tags based on facial recognition has brought the company another formal privacy investigation in Europe, according to Bloomberg. This time it's Norway seeking to determine whether Facebook has violated its privacy rules. Norway’s data-protection agency joins other regulators from the EU investigating the feature. Norway is not an EU member state but is reportedly coordinating its initiative with other states, including an ongoing Irish probe. Germany was also investigating Facebook facial recognition but has suspended its investigation and d [...]

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