General Mills: You Won’t Lose Your Right To Sue By ‘Liking’ Cheerios

chex General Mills, which took heavy flak last week for overreaching online terms of service, reverted to previous legal language over the weekend, apologized and assured customers who engage with its brands or products on social media aren't giving up any legal remedies. In other words, it's safe to "Like" Cheerios and Chex on Facebook again. As the New York Times reported and our Greg Sterling followed, General Mills updated the legal terms on its website last week to alert customers that, as the Times wrote, "they give up their right to sue the company if they download coupons, 'join' it i [...]


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 [...]


Google Tells Users It Scans Their Email As Microsoft Puts “Scroogled” To Bed

gmail inbox tabs Google updated its terms of service (TOS) yesterday to make more explicit the fact that it scans Gmail for the purpose of matching email content with ads. The relevant part of the updated TOS reads: Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored. Google has been sued for the practice as an alleged violation of the Federal Wiretap Act. The case survived Google' [...]


Hacking, E-Theft Grow As 18 Percent Report Data Stolen

privacy-security-featured Major internet sites now seem to suffer routine data breaches. Over the past several months, we've learned that multiple major retailers had credit card numbers (by the millions) stolen as their databases were hacked from Eastern Europe. Last week, “Heartbleed” was discovered, prompting the recommendation to change all your passwords online. Welcome to the new normal -- or so it would seem. The Pew Research Center released January 2014 survey data this morning that found 18 percent of adults online have had personal information stolen ("Social Security Number, credit card, or ban [...]


Katherine Heigl Vs Duane Reade Lawsuit May Serve Up Lesson In How Not To Tweet

shutterstock_141487798 New York pharmacy chain Duane Reade's social media team might be getting an expensive lesson in how not to tweet. And that means the rest of us get a free reminder about the perils of using celebrity photos in social media. First the news: Actress Katherine Heigl is suing Duane Reade in New York federal court, seeking $6 million for posting -- on Twitter and Facebook -- a paparazzi shot of her walking out of one of chain's stores last month. Here's the text of the tweet (which was deleted from the @DuaneReade account this week, after news of the suit broke): Love a quick #DuaneR [...]


Will “Mass Surveillance” Report Hasten The Cookiepocalypse?

Cookies The prevalence of cookie-free mobile devices and growing hostility to third-party cookies has marked the cookie for almost certain death. A new report will add to the chorus calling for the end of third-party cookies as an online tracking tool. The report (cited by TheVerge) from Princeton researchers details how relatively simple it is to connect browsing behavior across the internet and to real identity. The report (embedded below) is called "Cookies that give you away: Evaluating the surveillance implications of web tracking." The researchers undertook the study following, and in part [...]


FTC Discloses Small Business Complaints Against Yelp

yelp-featured Many small businesses continue to feel that Yelp is unfair or complain that Yelp salespeople are using strong-arm tactics to get them to buy advertising on the site. Claims of "extortion" against Yelp have persisted though never been proven with evidence and the company has successfully defended a number of lawsuits on those grounds. These "extortion" claims again resurfaced in two articles published this week. One in the Wall Street Journal, focused on a lawsuit brought by Hadeed Carpet in Virginia over anonymous, critical reviews on Yelp. The business owner claims that the reviewers we [...]


Is Native Advertising Legal? Does It Matter?

native 1 I start this article with three controversial statements: Native advertising likely violates Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules on deceptive advertising Native advertisers and publishers will profit tremendously from these violations and receive little to no punishment or regulation from the FTC This concept, which I call “regulatory arbitrage,” has been proven to be highly profitable, having been proven by many other internet businesses First Things First: What Is Native Advertising? Go to virtually any article, social network or content distribution source online and you’ [...]


Google Takes “SpyView” Wiretapping Appeal To SCOTUS

Google Street View car Google seeks US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) review of a US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which affirmed a lower court denial of Google's motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit brought after the 2010 Street View private "payload data" capture revelations. Plaintiffs argue that Google violated the federal "Wiretap Act" when it intercepted their private email and other communications during Street View data collection. The Wiretap Act makes it illegal to “intentionally intercept . . . any wire, oral, or electronic communication" and to "use or disclose information that is obtained [...]


Second Apple Patent Suit Vs. Samsung Ropes In Google

apple-google-featured If you're tired of news about smartphone-related patent litigation, you're not alone. However, there's more to come as Apple and Samsung's long-running patent feud appears no closer to resolution today than it was two years ago. The parties return to court this week for another round of patent-for-tat. The new case presents five Apple claims against Samsung and two counterclaims against Apple. Among the Apple claims against Samsung are "slide to unlock" and "tap to search" (on a map) or call a phone number. The damages sought by each side are curiously unbalanced. Apple wants a $40 roya [...]


FTC: Brand-Incentivized Pins On Pinterest Potentially “Deceptive,” Require Disclosure

Cole Haan Eric Goldman alerted us this weekend (via Twitter) to an FTC ruling that may have a significant impact on the way that brands interact with users on Pinterest. The FTC determined (see embedded letter below) that a Cole Haan "Wandering Sole" contest that asked users to pin/re-pin images of Cole Haan products in exchange for a chance to win a $1,000 shopping spree "violated Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45." That section protects consumers against "Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices." It's also the section used to compel advertising or product-endorsement dis [...]


Google Fined For “Non-Cooperation” In Indian Antitrust Inquiry

computer-internet-legal-law-featured The Google antitrust drama keeps migrating east. First the US FTC settled its investigation of Google without any significant penalty or restrictions. More recently, the long European antitrust inquiry appears to be "essentially" over, with a settlement built on the presentation of "rival links." Google is also in the midst of an antitrust, anti-competition investigation in India. (There's also and ongoing antitrust investigation in Canada). Things are now heating up in the Indian case. Last week, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) decided to impose a fine on Google "not pr [...]


UK Watchdog Clears Microsoft’s Scroogled-Style Radio Ad Against False Advertising Claims

msft-outlook-privacy The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has cleared a radio ad attacking Google's privacy practices against complaints that it amounted to false advertising. In the decision announced yesterday, the ASA rejected two complaints about an ad promoting Microsoft's Outlook email that said it -- unlike Google's Gmail service -- doesn't scan the contents of emails to sell ads. The radio ad begins with a voice speaking in Pig-latin, followed by a narrator who says "Pig Latin may be hard to understand, but you probably need it if you use Gmail, because Gmail scans every word of your e-mail [...]


How Microsoft Scroogled Itself As The Defender Of Email Privacy Over Google

scroogled-store-mug-featured For just over a year, Microsoft has been attacking Google over email privacy. Consumers are getting "Scroogled" by a Google that doesn't respect privacy, it has said. Microsoft can now retire that Scroogled campaign. After violating the privacy of a third-party's email account, Microsoft's not in a position to be taking the high-road, any longer. The Privacy Invasion This week, a case against a former Microsoft employee made the news. The employee is accused of passing trade secrets -- software code and other information about Windows -- to an unidentified blogger. Some argue he (we do know [...]


Google Seeking To Keep Depth Of Gmail Scanning Confidential

google-chrome-privacy-featured Google is currently fighting a federal consolidated class action lawsuit over Gmail scanning and data-mining. A main legal theory in the case argues Google's activity constitutes illegal "wiretapping." Google is reportedly trying to keep confidential many of the details of its internal processes and has asked US District Judge Lucy H. Koh "to redact 'confidential' information from the [public court] transcript," according to Bloomberg. The report adds, "The main revelation at the Feb. 27 hearing was the existence of 'Content Onebox,' used by Google to intercept e-mails for targeted adverti [...]


Google Celebrates The Web’s 25th Birthday With Plea To Keep It Free

25th Web anniversary birthday cake image " Today's Google homepage includes a small birthday cake image with a "25" candle on top to celebrate the web's 25th birthday. The image links to a post on Google's blog penned by the inventor of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee, asking that everyone "fight to keep it free and open." Berners-Lee writes: On the 25th birthday of the web, I ask you to join in—to help us imagine and build the future standards for the web, and to press for every country to develop a digital bill of rights to advance a free and open web for everyone. Learn more and speak up for the sort of web we really want [...]


Pinterest’s First Transparency Report: Only 12 Govt. Data Requests

pinterest-data-requests Following in the footsteps of many other big name web/tech properties, Pinterest published its first transparency report on Friday. But there's not much of a comparison between Pinterest's report and the ones that others have shared in the past couple years. While companies like Google and Facebook typically report thousands of government requests in any six-month period, Pinterest says it received just 12 such requests between July and December 2013. Yep, 12. Here's the breakdown, in a chart that even I could've made: Pinterest says all 12 of those requests were from inside [...]


Survey: 87 Percent Want “Do Not Track” To Elude Marketers

data-privacy-featured There's a massive gap between marketers' increasingly aggressive use of data and consumers' desire not to be tracked and targeted. This is not a new issue. However a new survey from social marketing firm Communispace underscores the chasm. The firm conducted an online consumer survey last year (n=8,343), with respondents from multiple countries. Most however (87 percent) were from the US. The overwhelming conclusion is that consumers care very much about privacy and are concerned about data-mining and tracking.  The most striking survey finding is that 87 percent would enable or clic [...]


Pirate Sites Earn $227 Million In Ad Revenue Per Year With Some Funded By Major Brands [Report]

piracy-600 The Digital Citizens Alliance claims pirate sites earn $227 million in advertising revenue per year, with ads from major brands like Amazon, McDonalds, American Express and Ford showing up on 30 percent of the largest sites. Yesterday, TorrentFreak covered the Digital Citizens Alliance report Good Money Gone Bad: Digital Thieves and the Hijacking of the Online Ad Business which evaluated ad revenue for 596 websites that had received more than 25 takedown requests through Google during the third quarter of 2013. The report organized pirate sites into four categories - BitTorrent and oth [...]


Rebel With A Twitter Cause: CMG Sues Twitter For Ownership Of @JamesDean Account

James Dean Last Friday, The Hollywood Reporter disclosed a lawsuit filed by CMG Worldwide against Twitter. CMG, a firm that manages the commercial real estate of deceased celebrities, is suing the social media site along with five John Does, whose identifications are protected by Twitter, for unauthorized use of James Dean's name and image. Representing the James Dean estate, CMG's lawsuit is an an attempt to close the @JamesDean Twitter account which is managed by one of the John Does listed in the case. When asked about the lawsuit, CMG's CEO Mark Roesler claimed it is about ownership, and the [...]


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