David Kirkpatrick

September 7, 2010

“Do Not Track” movement gaining traction in DC

“Do Not Track” would be akin to the “Do Not Call” list opt-out consumer registry to prevent unsolicited sales pitches and other calls, and right now looks to have a legitimate shot at reaching the proposed legislation level, if not further. The privacy advocacy, Consumer Watchdog, is running an ad in Times Square (on a 540-square foot digital billboard no less) mocking Google’s CEO Erik Schmidt as a snooping ice cream man.

Now Schmidt (and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg) have made some very boneheaded public statements about online privacy — and I’m a huge advocate of online privacy — but the reality is some level of tracking is necessary to keep the internet rolling along in its current fashion. Take away the legitimate revenue from data mining web user’s habits and all of a sudden you’ll be running into paywall after paywall of premium content. And on top of that, the technology to track web usage wouldn’t be going anywhere, it would just only be utilized by criminals or entities looking to circumvent anti tracking regulations.

Because of Schmidt and Zuckerberg’s public idiocy on online privacy, and actual privacy gaffes like Facebook’s well-publicized multiple self-inflicted wounds, the general public is much more aware of exactly how tracked they are, and even if they don’t understand exactly how that data is used, they don’t like it. Consumer Watchdog’s commissioned poll (grain of salt here due to the poll’s source) found 80 percent of the public supporting a “Do Not Track” registry. That is a high number.

So now that the online privacy debate has gone mainstream, look for likely legislation to his Washington sometime soon. And if all comes to pass, the Federal Trade Commission may get its say in this process. Is that what anyone really wants? I doubt it.

From the link:

Do Not Track legislation would be similar to the national Do Not Call registry, allowing consumers to opt out of having their web activities tracked for advertising purposes. It is a concept that has gained surprising momentum –  surprising, given the gridlock that otherwise exists on Capitol Hill – and could well be proposed as legislation in the upcoming session. House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee ChairmanRick Boucher, D-Va., and Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection Subcommittee ChairmanBobby Rush, D-Ill., are working on privacy legislation that they hope to have ready for for the next Congress. The Do Not Call list would likely be included.

Then there is the Federal Trade Commission. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz told a Senate panel that the commission is exploring the idea as well (via Nextgov). The opt-out process could be run by the FTC or some private sector entity, he suggested.

August 30, 2010

Public relations no-nos — impersonating consumers

PR firm Reverb Communications is in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission for creating video game reviews at Apple’s iTunes store by posing as unbiased consumers, instead of the paid professional flacks they were. Now there is a somewhat fine line out there in the online world between fandom, fannish shilling and paid shilling, and the FTC frowns highly on the last item in that list if it’s undisclosed. Frowns in it so highly it even requires bloggers at any level of readership and popularity disclose a paid-for ad.

(Full disclosure: I occasionally run sponsored posts I’ve created for clients. Those posts beginning December 1, 2001, as per FTC regulations are clearly marked with a “sponsored” disclaimer. And to add a shameless ad to this aside, if you are interested in a sponsored post on this blog, hit the about page for contact information.)

And as a bit of advice to Reverb Comm., try to stay on right side of the FTC. It can make your life fairly unpleasant. Plus the bad PR your clients get hit with when shenanigans like this get exposed kill your viral efforts.

From the first link way up there in the first sentence:

US regulators have said a public relations firm has agreed to settle charges that it had employees pose as unbiased videogame buyers and post reviews at Apple’s online iTunes store.

The deal requires Reverb Communications and its owner, Tracie Snitker, to remove such potentially deceptive reviews and refrain from the practice, according to the .

“Companies, including public relations firms involved in online marketing need to abide by long-held principles of truth in advertising,” said FTC division of advertising practices director Mary Engle.

“Advertisers should not pass themselves off as ordinary consumers touting a product, and endorsers should make it clear when they have financial connections to sellers.”

August 7, 2010

An argument against online privacy regulation

I ran a muli-part post covering some of the more chilling aspects of online privacy last weekend, largely quoting the excellent Wall Street Journal series on the subject. This weekend here’s the best, and really most difficult, solution to the issue. I’m never for un- or even quasi- necessary regulation, so keeping the government out of online privacy oversight should remain the goal of anyone interested in the future of online freedom.

The key point from the second link (emphasis mine):

If a central authority such as Congress or the FTC were to decide for consumers how to deal with cookies, it would generalize wrongly about many, if not most, individuals’ interests, giving them the wrong mix of privacy and interactivity. If the FTC ruled that third-party cookies required consumers to opt in, for example, most would not, and the wealth of “free” content and services most people take for granted would quietly fade from view. And it would leave consumers unprotected from threats beyond their jurisdiction (as in Web tracking by sites outside the United States). Education is the hard way, and it is the only way, to get consumers’ privacy interests balanced with their other interests.

July 22, 2010

FTC’s “hot news doctrine”

Via KurzweilAI.net —  this is the first I’ve heard of this Federal Trade Commission proposal. As you can imagine, I don’t like it at all.

Google Tells FTC Enforcing “Hot News” Would Create a Hot Mess

July 22, 2010

Source: New York Times — July 21, 2010

The  Federal Trade Commission’s proposed “hot news doctrine” — legislation that would prevent others from reporting the same facts as a traditional publisher for a period of time after a news event — “would not only hurt free expression … [but] make it virtually impossible for aggregators such as Google News and Yahoo News to function the way they currently do, publishing excerpts from news stories without explicit permission from media outlets,” Google public policy director Pablo Chavez said.

The “hot news doctrine” would also partially cripple KurzweilAI’s news coverage. – Ed.

Read original article

December 4, 2009

Concerned about a website’s privacy policy? You have a forum

Not a bad idea from the Center for Democracy and Technology.

From the link:

Don’t like what a website has done with your personal information? Don’t understand its privacy policies? A new privacy complaint site is now open for business–created by an Internet freedom and privacy advocacy group in Washington, D.C. called the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT).

Complaints can be shared with your social network via sites like Twitter and Facebook, and also forwarded to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If enough complaints surface, it’s possible that the FTC will launch an investigation into whether a website is violate existing laws.

The larger point is to create a cudgel to get Congress interested  in enactingcomprehensive Internet privacy legislation. CDT has already put out a pretty good guide to online privacy problems, explaining existing and often narrowly-written patchwork of court rulings and laws, most of them falling hopelessly behind rapid technological advances.

October 8, 2009

Hey bloggers, new FTC rules coming down the pipe

Filed under: Business, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:16 am

That group includes yours truly. The Federal Trade Commission is coming down on undisclosed paid web 2.0 content including blogging and social networking on December 1.

I do a little paid blogging, plus I tack web 2.0 exposure onto most of my PR and MR work. I don’t have a current disclosure policy — it’s pretty much chance that something gets disclosed, or not — and I’m certainly not going out of my way to hide anything. My guess is most posts that shill for something are pretty obvious whether I overtly disclose, or not, that fact.

I also  bet a lot of enthusiastic blogging I do on subjects that really grab me might even come off as shilling. For the record almost all press releases I post are posted purely with the intent of widely spreading information I find personally interesting.

At the end of the day I’m not too certain how the FTC can even seriously patrol this “issue.”

From the link:

As of December 1, the Federal Trade Commission is going to require bloggers, and prominent tweeters and Facebook types to disclose any paid endorsementsto their followers, online friends and readers. These new rules have the potential to change everyone’s online habits. Here’s what you need to know:

August 28, 2009

FTC bans most robocall telemarketing

This type of regulation is long, long overdue. Robocalls are invasive, time-wasting and sometimes almost impossible to stop. I’ve done consulting and content for the collections industry and product reviews for IVR (interactive voice response) systems and predictive dialers so I have a working knowledge of the technology and its strengths and weaknesses.

Robocalls can offer a number of bad results. Unscrupulous users of predictive dialers with prerecorded messages can make calls with zero human involvement in the process, hide or spoof the caller ID number to anything (read: fake) they want, and not provide a working number to anyone who listens to the entire call to hopefully stop the annoyance.

Another issue isn’t nearly as sinister, but maybe even worse from an unstoppable irritant perspective. Sometimes either a number gets “lost” in a PD/IVR system and keeps getting called without anyone knowing about it, and even lost in th system where a front-line operator can’t end the calls. Similarly, there are times where a company utilizing PD/IVR systems go out of business, but the calls continue for a time. Maybe a long time if the service is outsourced, the paid-up contract is long and no one from the defunct company informs the telecom outsource to stop the calls.

From the first link way up there:

The Federal Trade Commission said Thursday it is banning many types of prerecorded telemarketing solicitations, known as robocalls. Currently, consumers must specifically join a do-not-call list to avoid them. Starting Sept. 1, telemarketers will first need written permission from the customer to make such calls.

“American consumers have made it crystal clear that few things annoy them more than the billions of commercial telemarketing robocalls they receive every year,” said Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC.

Violators will face penalties of up to $16,000 per call.

Don’t expect phone solicitations to disappear completely, though.

Calls that are not trying to sell goods and services to consumers will be exempt, such as those that provide information like flight cancellations and delivery notices and those from debt collectors.

Other calls not covered include those from politicians, charities that contact consumers directly, banks, insurers, phone companies, surveys and certain health care messages such as prescription notifications. The FTC said those don’t fall under its jurisdiction.

And calls made by humans rather than automated systems will still be allowed, unless the phone number is on the National Do Not Call Registry.

But the FTC said the ban should cover most robocalls, forcing marketers to turn to more expensive live calls, or ramp up efforts in direct mail, e-mail and TV ads.

The ban is part of amendments to the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule announced a year ago.

October 16, 2008

Spam operation busted

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:19 am

I knew my spam pretty much disappeared, and here’s the reason. Kudos to all law enforcement enforcement involved. Thank you.

From the link:

Steve Baker, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Midwest Region announces that the FTC has shut down one of the largest spam operations in the world Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008, at a news conference in Chicago. The complex network involved countries from New Zealand to China to the United States. Spammers sent out billions of e-mails encouraging people to click through to professional-looking Web sites, which allegedly used false claims to peddle prescription medication, “male enhancement” pills and weight-loss drugs, the FTC said.

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