Microsoft’s Ballmer: Google Is A “Monopoly”

google-legal-law Microsoft, the company stung a decade ago in the US by being branded a monopoly and then in Europe by having to pay and pay again for its past tactics, is arguing that regulators need to subject its foe Google to the same treatment. At a recent meeting of financial analysts Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer characterized Google as a search "monopoly," implying the company needed to be restrained by regulation. "They have this incredible, amazing, dare I say monopoly that we are the only person left on the planet trying to compete with," Ballmer is quoted saying. (Danny Sullivan offers an extensive [...]


Appeals Court Rules Facebook “Like” Protected By Constitution

facebook-like-thumb-icon The First Amendment of the US Constitution protects Facebook Likes as free speech. That's according to a US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. The underlying facts of the case involved sheriff's deputies who were fired for endorsing (Liking) the sheriff's political opponent on Facebook. The existing sheriff discovered this and canned the deputies. They sued to get their jobs back and for damages. The lower federal court ruled in favor of the defendant sheriff on "summary judgment" and against the plaintiffs. The court said that a Facebook "Li [...]


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 [...]


Appeals Court Blocks Google Effort To Exit “SpyView” Case

google-legal-law The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling denying Google's motion to dismiss a class action brought after the 2010 Street View private "payload data" capture revelations. The plaintiff class asserted that Google violated the federal Wiretap Act when it intercepted private email and other communications. The Wiretap Act makes it illegal for anyone to “intentionally intercept . . . any wire, oral, or electronic communication.” It's also illegal to "use or disclose information that is obtained through such an illegal wiretap." Google argued that unencrypted pri [...]


Yelp Sues Law Firm For Faking Reviews, Firm Claims Retaliation

yelp icon You'd think that lawyers would know better. According to a lawsuit filed August 20 in California Superior Court, Yelp is suing the McMillan Law Group for breach of contract and related claims. The site claims the law firm posted fake reviews about itself. The Yelp suit recites that McMillan Law Group employees used personal Yelp accounts or created fake accounts to write five-star reviews about the bankruptcy firm. In many of these cases the users posed as clients of the firm and fabricated experiences. The following is an example representative of the claims in the lawsuit (full complai [...]


Edmunds.com Settles With Texas Marketing Firm Over Fake Reviews

edmunds-com-logo A Texas marketing company that was accused of registering more than 2,000 fake accounts to write car dealer reviews on Edmunds.com has agreed to a ban on using the site. That's part of a recently announced settlement between Humankind Design and Edmunds.com, which also calls for Humankind to pay a portion of Edmunds.com's legal fees and turn over information about all accounts and reviews that it submitted to the popular car-shopping website. In a statement, Edmunds.com CEO Seth Berkowitz called the settlement a victory for car shoppers and car dealers. "This is undoubtedly a victory no [...]


Yahoo Issues First Transparency Report, Shows 42% Of All Data Requests From U.S.

yahoo-us-transparency Yahoo has issued its first transparency report and, not surprisingly, it shows that the U.S. is the source of more governmental requests than any other country. The report covers the first half of 2013, a time when Yahoo says it received almost 43,000 requests from 17 different governments.* The U.S. was the top source with 42 percent of all requests. Yahoo says it received 12,444 total U.S. requests, which affected 40,322 Yahoo accounts. In 37 percent of cases, Yahoo disclosed content in reply to the request -- this could be in the form of words in an email or instant message, photos on [...]


Report: Almost 90 Percent Concerned About Online Privacy & Trying To Avoid Advertisers

online privacy A new survey based report from the Pew Research Center has some interesting and eye-opening findings about online privacy. Among them, the survey finds that 86 percent of US internet users "have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints" using a variety of methods. Part of the survey dealt with online security and identity theft, which I won't go into here. Despite their efforts the majority of respondents (59 percent) now believe it's not possible to be completely anonymous online. And 68 percent said that the current legal framework is not sufficient to protect onli [...]


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 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 [...]


Yahoo Gives Out Inactive Usernames Via “Wishlists” & Launches “WatchList” With A $1.99 Fee

yahoo-featured Yahoo users who completed a Wishlist for their "dream" Yahoo username/email last month should find out today if they received one of their top five choices. According to the announcement, even if a user didn't win one of the five usernames they submitted on their Wishlist, Yahoo's newly launched Watchlist will offer more opportunities to claim a Yahoo ID. Yahoo's Watchlist allows users to monitor up to five usernames for three years. The company says that if any of the usernames on a Watchlist become available, the user will have 14 days to claim it. Any users who completed a Wishlist will [...]


Privacy Groups Ask Court To Reject Google Settlement, Claim It Won’t Fix Privacy Issues

computer-internet-legal-law-featured Last month, Google agreed to pay $8.5 million to a settlement fund over a lawsuit claiming the site had given private information included in user search queries to third parties without gaining consent from users or notifying them that the information was being shared. The court approval for the settlement was scheduled for today, but five US privacy groups have requested that the settlement not be accepted. PCWorld reports that the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog, Patient Privacy and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse wrote a joint letter a [...]


Microsoft’s Latest Scroogled Target: Google’s “Gspam” Ads That Look Like Email

gspam Microsoft has taken another shot at Google today with the latest push in its ongoing "Scroogled" campaign. This one? Another attack on Gmail. Or, as Microsoft is calling it today, "Gspam." That's the term they're using for those ads that look like emails in Gmail (which, last I recall hearing, was still a limited Google test). From today's update on Scroogled.com: Consumers should be able to trust their email provider to protect them from spam, but Google is doing just the opposite. Rather than protect you from spam, Google is reading your private email conversations and using what they fi [...]


Twitter’s Latest Transparency Report Details Increases In DMCA, Removal & Information Requests

Twitter Logo Twitter's latest transparency report shows that the company is seeing double-digit increases in data-related requests so far this year from governments and other rights holders. Twitter breaks down the requests it gets into three types: information, removal and copyright notices. All three are up significantly so far in 2013 compared to the same time period a year ago. Information Requests: Twitter has received 1,157 of these so far this year, a 36 percent increase compared to the first half of 2012. Removal Requests: These went from just six last year to 60 so far in 2013, a 1,000% i [...]


Pinterest Announces Support For Do-Not-Track

pinterest-logo Buried in a post about greater, coming personalization on Pinterest is a statement that says if consumers don't want the tracking they can opt-out. The company supports Do-Not-Track (DNT): We’re excited to give everyone a more personalized experience, but we also understand if you’re not interested! We support Do Not Track, and you can change your account settings anytime. The New York Times points out that after Twitter (in May 2012), Pinterest is the next major player on a very short list of Internet brands to support DNT. Microsoft (with IE 10), Chrome and Mozilla are all supporters o [...]


Edmunds.com Sues Texas Marketing Firm For Allegedly Posting Fake Car Dealer Reviews

edmunds-com-logo Edmunds.com, the popular car-shopping website, is the latest company to take legal action against fake reviews. The company has issued a news release explaining its lawsuit against Humankind Design, a marketing company based in Friendswood, Texas, for "fraud and breach of the Edmunds.com membership agreement." Edmunds, which says it manually screens every auto dealer review submitted to its site, claims that Humankind tried to register more than 2,000 accounts and used them to post fake reviews. An Edmunds' spokesperson tells TIME magazine that the fake reviews from Humankind began in Ja [...]


South Korea Drops Antitrust Investigation Against Google

google-legal-law In early 2011, South Korean search and portal providers NHN Corp. and Daum Communications filed antitrust complaints with the South Korean equivalent of the US Fair Trade Commission against Google. Both companies claimed that Google had blocked them from putting their search apps on Android phones in South Korea. Today, it was reported (via NextWeb) that Google has been cleared in the investigation. NHN’s complaint originally alleged that “Google has banned South Korean phone manufacturers from including Web search applications made by other companies under its marketing contracts . [...]


Europe Calls For More Concessions From Google, Survey Says “Rival Links” Not Enough

google-eu-200px European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia held a news conference this morning during which he said Google will need to offer further concessions to avoid antitrust fines. According to the NY Times, Almunia said that Google needs to "improve" its current proposal: "I concluded that the proposals that Google sent to us months ago are not enough to overcome our concerns." Almunia has reportedly asked Google's Eric Schmidt "to present better proposals, or improved proposals.” As I've previously indicated, Almunia's position is strange, given my understanding that he was di [...]


Major Ad Networks Sign Anti-Piracy Best Practices Aimed To Starve Piracy Sites Of Ad Revenues

copyright-piracy-cd In a move to combat online piracy and copyright infringement, leading ad networks have agreed to a set of best practices set to cut-off ad revenues from sites hosting pirated media or promoting the sale of counterfeit drugs. The participating ad networks include Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, 24/7 Media, Adtegrity, AOL, Condé Nast and SpotXchange. Pressure has been mounting on Google, in particular, and the online ad network industry in general to combat online counterfeiting and copyright infringement. Brandon Bailey of SiliconBeat reports many critics are still not satisfied with the [...]


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