Feds: Amazon Let Kids Buy In-App Goods Without Consent

Kindle Fire In January, Apple agreed to refund consumers $32.5 million to settle an FTC complaint that it charged parents for their kids' in-app purchases without adult consent. Google (Play) may soon be hit with a similar complaint. But today, it was Amazon that felt the sting of an FTC lawsuit (full complaint below). The FTC action says that "Amazon.com, Inc. has billed parents and other account holders for millions of dollars in unauthorized in-app charges incurred by children." It seeks to recover millions of dollars in refunds to consumers for these alleged unauthorized charges. The FTC comp [...]


Google Launches CookieChoices Site To Help Publishers With EU Cookie Compliance

shutterstock_120614257-cookies Google has launched a new resource named CookieChoices to help publishers understand the European Union's cookie compliance regulations. Bill Hartzer was the first to spot this, noticing Google purchasing the domain a while back and now launching this content on the new domain the other day. The CookieChoices explains the EU requirements as follows: European laws require that digital publishers give visitors to their sites and apps information about their use of cookies and other forms of local storage. In many cases these laws also require that consent be obtained. This site is prod [...]


Google Earns Ad Money Off YouTube Videos Hawking Stolen Credit Cards, Says Watchdog Group

YouTube-Large The Digital Citizens Alliance, an internet safety coalition, is calling out Google for allowing videos that promote the sale of stolen and bogus credit cards to appear on YouTube and then profiting from ads shown alongside the videos. [caption id="attachment_89258" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Source: Digital Citizens Alliance[/caption] In its latest report [PDF], "Breach of Trust: How the Online Market for Stolen and Bogus Credit Cards is Eroding Confidence in the Internet", the watchdog group includes several examples like the one above which shows an ad for Target -- the company t [...]


The SocialChorus Lesson: Use “Nofollow” In Native Ads, To Avoid Google Penalties

SocialChorus Brand building service SocialChorus has learned a lesson that other native advertising players should also know. Even when you're focused on building awareness through social media, you can't ignore Google and its rules, not if sponsored posts and links in native advertising are involved. The company's platform came under attention this week after an agency working on behalf of Microsoft used it to launch a campaign designed to raise buzz about Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. Mistake number one was trying to involve TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington with a cold-call pitch that [...]


Everything You Need to Know About The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation

email-spam-600 The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) has been long in the works and will finally be enforced starting on July 1st, 2014. But what is it exactly, and why should anyone outside of Canada care? Read on for some frequently asked questions and available resources to help comply with the upcoming CASL enforcement date. CASL is applicable to anyone who "makes use of commercial electronic messages." More specifically, if you have an email address in your email marketing database that belongs to a Canadian, or if anyone opens an email in Canada, this law is applicable. The law has require [...]


Google Asks Appeals Court To Toss Out AdWords Patent Infringement Verdict

Google legal Today Google made oral arguments in the U.S. appeals court overturn the $30.5 million, plus royalties, verdict awarded to patent-holding company Vringo Inc. in 2012. Vringo won the case (I/P Engine Inc. v. AOL Inc., 14-1233) in which it claimed the filtering technology used in Google's AdWords system to determine where ads appear in the search results is  covered under two patents it came to acquire from Lycos, the search engine that once competed with Yahoo in popularity. According to BloombergBusinessweek, Google attorney David Perlson of Quinn Emanuel in San Francisco told a three-ju [...]


Top eBay Affiliate Sentenced To 5 Months In Prison For Wire Fraud

ebay-logo-240px eBay's top-earning affiliate, Shawn Hogan, has been sentenced to five months in federal prison after pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud, Business Insider reported this morning. Hogan must pay a fine of $25,000 and will remain on supervised release for three years after his prison term is completed. The case traces back to 2006, when the FBI began pursuing Hogan and Brian Dunning, eBay's number two affiliate, on suspicion of violating eBay's affiliate terms of service with a cookie-stuffing scheme that gave the affiliates credit for sales that came, not after users clicked on their a [...]


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 [...]


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’ [...]


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 [...]


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 [...]


Google Invests $14 Million Of Combined $61 Million Tech Firms Spent To Sway Legislators In 2013

google-tv-money When it comes to influencing Washington, Google was at the top of the list of tech companies that spent a combined $61.15 million on lobbying efforts last year. According to a report from Consumer Watchdog, Google invested $14.06 million of the $61.15 million invested by ten tech firms, including Microsoft, IBM, Facebook and Oracle. Consumer Watchdog reports last year's total was a 15.9 percent increase over the $52.78 million spent in 2012 on lobbying efforts by tech firms. "Policy making in Washington is all about how much money you can throw around," said Consumer Watchdog's Privac [...]


The Future Of Internet Sales Tax: What’s Next After The Supreme Court’s Denial Of Amazon, Overstock Appeals?

law-legal-concept This week, the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals filed by Amazon and Overstock.com that challenged the ability of states to collect sales tax on items sold online by out-of-state retailers. The appeals stem from New York's passing of what has become known as the "Amazon Tax," which expands the definition of  nexus to include in-state affiliate marketers. Amazon and Overstock.com claimed the expanded interpretation of nexus violates Constitutional interstate commerce law and due process. The retail giants point to the US Supreme Court's 1992 ruling in favor of mail-order business Qu [...]


Advertorial Native Ads To Receive Closer FTC Scrutiny

Trojan Horse At one time the mixing of editorial and advertising content was an unthinkable breach of journalistic ethics. Now it's the hottest online advertising trend: Native Ads. Native Ads don't automatically violate US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules against "deceptive advertising" provided they're identified as sponsored content. However the question is whether publisher websites are sufficiently calling out Native Ads as advertising. According to the Wall Street Journal, the FTC is hosting a "workshop" on advertorial content this week called "Blurred Lines: Advertising or Content?" to dis [...]


New TCPA Guidelines: What Do They Mean For Mobile Marketing?

fcc-logo By now, you have likely noticed that everyone is talking (and texting) about the amendments to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) -- the same legislation that spawned the "Do Not Call" registry. But the news isn't exactly new. In fact, the TCPA guidelines were amended by the FCC in early 2012; but, they just went into effect on October 16, 2013. So why should we be concerned? While the guidelines encompass telephone solicitations as well as messaging, this article will focus on the impact of these changes to mobile marketers in particular. We will cover: The changes to the exist [...]


Taiwan’s FTC Fines Samsung $340,000 For Posting Fake Comments

computer-internet-legal-law-featured A number of reports are confirming Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission (FTC) has fined Samsung more than $340,000 for posting fake comments on its own products and criticizing competitor products via third-party marketing companies. According to a story on The Verve, the FTC's report claims Samsung paid people to "highlight the shortcomings of competing products" and discovered "nefarious activity" by Samsung commenters: The list of infractions includes the "disinfection of negative news about Samsung products," "palindromic Samsung product marketing," and the positive evaluation of Samsung pro [...]


Operation Greener Grass: Why Aren’t SEOs Up In Arms?

reputation_sstk Once again, SEO is in the news. Once again, the media (along with an elected official or two -- shocker!) clearly doesn't understand how the industry works. While it seems New York's elected (and appointed) officials could give a rodent's posterior about protecting the interests of anyone except Big Corporate, "so called SEO companies" are the new babies being sent out with the bath water. [caption id="attachment_60122" align="alignright" width="240"] Reputation Management[/caption] Enter, Operation Cleaner Turf; a yogurt shop sting with a sensational press release sub-headline on the of [...]


ActiveCast Media Sues Google For Withholding AdX Traffic Acquisition Payments

google-legal-law ­­­A lawsuit filed in US court last week by ActiveCast Media against Google provides an inside glimpse at just how opaque and complex the world of online traffic acquisition ecosystem can be. ActiveCast, a subsidiary of Web Integrated Net Solutions and headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, is suing Google for breach of contract, claiming the Internet giant is unlawfully withholding payment for traffic ActiveCast sent to Google advertisers as part of its contract agreement with Google DoubleClick AdExchange (AdX). In June, Google flagged the account for invalid activity and retr [...]


France To Fine Google On Privacy, Low UK Taxes Draw Ire

google-eu-200px Google's European woes continue. The outcome of the antitrust settlement negotiations is still uncertain and it's not clear that Google will "get off" without more concessions. Now, European privacy complaints against Google have come to a head, with France all but promising to fine the company. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that France's privacy regulator, the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), told media on Friday that Google had blown a deadline to change the way it handles user data. According to the report a quasi-judicial process will now begin tha [...]


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