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 [...]


Google France Home Page Now Carries Privacy Violation Notice, As Ordered

Google France notice As expected, the home page of Google France now carries a notification to users that Google was fined for privacy violations relating to the "unified" privacy policy change it made in 2012. A required link to the ruling against it might also be slowing the site of the French privacy agency. Notice Required For 2 Days Google is appealing the ruling made against it in January, which also carried a 150,000 euro fine (about $200,000). Google had asked that the requirement to post a notice be put on hold pending the appeal, but that was denied. Hence the notice going up now. The notice say [...]


Court Tells Google It Must Admit Privacy Penalty On Google France Home Page

google-privacy-200 Following the imposition of a fine by the French National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties (CNIL) for violating consumer privacy, Google was ordered to post a statement on its French homepage that its privacy policy did not comply with French law: The Sanctions Committee ordered Google Inc. to publish a communiqué on this decision on the website https://www.google.fr, during 48 hours, within eight days as of the notification of the decision. This publicity measure is justified by the extent of Google’s data collection, as well as by the necessity to inform the persons conce [...]


Twitter Threatens Legal Action For More Transparency Around National Security Requests

Twitter logo In conjunction with the release of its latest transparency reports, Twitter announced today it was pressing the US Department of Justice for more transparency around national security requests, and is considering legal options to defend its First Amendment rights. Twitter applauded the agreement made last week between the Department of Justice and various communication providers allowing greater disclosure around national security requests in "very large" ranges, but said it wasn't enough: While this agreement is a step in the right direction, these ranges do not provide meaningful or suff [...]


Google Tries To Block Shaming Privacy Notification In France

google-privacy-200 Last month, Google was fined for violating French privacy rules with its “unified” privacy policy. The French National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties (CNIL) had given Google and ultimatum to “fix” its privacy policy or be fined. Generally speaking, CNIL objects to the lack of specific notice to consumers about how their data are being used. However, Google takes the position that it's in full compliance with European privacy standards. It therefore declined to change anything to satisfy French regulators. Making good on its threat, CNIL imposed the maximum avail [...]


Coming To Google: Click On Ad, Get Free Ride To Merchant Or Restaurant?

Google self-driving car logo The day may be near when AdWords advertisers can offer customers immediate transportation to bring them to their locations right from an ad.  Google has been awarded the patent for "Transportation-aware physical advertising conversions" US 8630897 B1 which essentially allows advertisers to show a sort-of transportation ad extension offering free or discounted travel to their stores. A hair salon could include free or discounted transportation in its ads displayed during lunch hour to nearby office parks. Or as in Google's own example illustrated below, a restaurant could offer a lunch offe [...]


Consumer Watchdog Files FTC Complaint Over “Send To Anyone On Google+” Feature

consumerwatchdog Consumer Watchdog, the non-profit group that might more accurately be called "Google Watchdog," has filed a complaint with the FTC over Google's recent rollout of a feature that lets Gmail users contact Google+ users without knowing the recipient's email address. Google launched the "Send to Anyone on Google+" feature earlier this month, which lets anyone with a Gmail and Google+ account send messages to anyone else with Gmail and Google+ accounts. Google made the feature opt-out, meaning users that didn't want to potentially get messages from strangers via Gmail/Google+ had to turn it off [...]


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 [...]


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