“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Think again. No one wants their reputation, the name of their business, or their products dragged through the mud on the Internet. There are now web specialists called “online reputation managers,” who claim to manipulate Internet search results so the negative links will appear further down the list of results, and hopefully be missed. The lead story in the New York Times, Sunday Styles Section (April 3, 2011), “Erasing The Digital Past,” describes a few companies in this business, and their fee structures which can average from $5,000 to $10,000 a month for high level executives or celebrities, to $120 to $600 a year for run of the mill cases.
Continue Reading Before You Hire That Online Reputation Manager, Consider Your Legal Alternatives

It is now cliché to say that social media activity by companies is growing exponentially. Companies, hospitals, non-profits, the armed services, insurance companies…. every type of entity can be found on social networking sites with Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts. The marketing opportunities for companies continue to manifest themselves with directed marketing campaigns, discounts on Foursquare and other location based networking sites, and data mining to analyze social networking activities.
Continue Reading Why Social Media Activity May Mean Updating Your Insurance Coverage

On December 21, 2010, the FCC approved controversial net neutrality rules in a party-line vote. Democratic Commissioners Copps and Clyburn joined Chairman Genachowski in approving the Order, despite concerns that it did not go far enough. Republican Commissioners McDowell and Baker wrote lengthy dissents, arguing that the FCC had stepped far beyond its regulatory authority in approving Internet regulations.
 


Continue Reading FCC Approves Controversial Net Neutrality Rules

The preliminary Staff Report issued by the FTC earlier this month is the most aggressive effort by the FTC to date on the issue of online and mobile privacy generally. The preliminary Staff Report proposes a “do not track” mechanism along with an overall online privacy framework that would rigidly regulate how information is collected both online and through mobile devices, how it can be used, and how it must be stored. Deviating from the distinction between “personally-identifiable information” and “non-personally-identifiable information” that has formed the foundation for other privacy regulations and legislation, the framework proposed in the preliminary Staff Report maintains that such dichotomy is no longer relevant. Because this is arguably a profound change in the existing state of regulation in this area, the preliminary Staff Report is being circulated for comment before it becomes final. This article provides a basic outline of the proposed framework for those who may not already be familiar with the preliminary Staff Report.
Continue Reading The Federal Trade Commission’s Proposed Framework For Consumer Privacy Protection – The Basics

Brands have life cycles and the brands that create a credible emotional connection with the consumer are likely to be able to demand higher consideration and maintain brand loyalty. One must consider what legal protections to employ and which pitfalls to avoid in building a strong and evolving brand in light of the key trends for branding in the New Millennium.
Continue Reading How to Legally Protect Your Brand in the New Millennium

Last week Sun Chips pulled its biodegradable snack bag off the market around the same time that the FTC announced that it wanted to change its so-called "Green Guides." Coincidence? Maybe.  Sun Chips explained that the more environmentally-friendly bag that it launched with a nice spot on Earth Day –  was "noisier" than its regular bag, raising complaints from consumers who were more interested in having a quiet snack bag than doing something to help save the planet.  But complaints about "noisy" bags aside, the changes that the FTC has proposed to the Green Guides will make it harder for marketers like Sun Chips to tout the things that they’re doing to help reduce the negative effect that their product manufacturing and distribution pipelines are having on the environment.  If the FTC takes away a brand’s ability to tout those attributes, then it also takes away a brand’s ability to leverage those attributes to increase sales.  And if that’s taken away, we run the risk that brands will make green initiatives less of a priority, which will hurt us all.
 


Continue Reading Will The Revised “Green Guides” Do More Harm Than Good?

This week the Governor of California vetoed what would have been a landmark law on data breach notification. The law sought to strengthen the notification required when databases of personal information are compromised. California’s existing data breach law, which will continue unamended, requires companies and state government agencies to notify individuals when their personal information has been compromised.
 


Continue Reading California Data Breach Notification Law Vetoed

Web businesses have fueled the natural cynicism that consumers have when reading online reviews. There are too many reported instances of businesses or PR firms using employees or paid reviewers to post glowing reviews, and, in addition, mark as unhelpful negative reviews of their respective businesses.
Continue Reading ‘Astroturfing’ With Fake Reviews Exposes A Company to Legal Risk