FTC Seeks Your Comments on Proposed Verifiable Parental Consent under COPPA

On November 19, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it is seeking public comment on a second proposed verifiable parental consent method by AgeCheq, an online privacy protection service. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires children and family-friendly website operators and app developers to (1) post privacy policies and (2) notify and obtain verifiable consent from parents prior to collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children under the age of 13.

There are considerable challenges to obtaining verifiable consent from parents in real time–particularly for use of online services by children. The rule lays out a number of acceptable methods for gaining verifiable parental consent and includes a provision allowing parties to submit new consent methods to the FTC for approval. Age Cheq’s new proposal eliminates the need for paper signatures by providing a digitally signed parental declaration authenticated by a verification code on the parent’s mobile device.

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US Supreme Court to take on the patentability of software. Can the decision reduce the incidence of troll attacks?

Mathmatical algorithms are unpatentable. Software is a collection of algorithms expressed in machine code. Under current law, only software that involves a specific machine or physical result. The U.S. Supreme Court accepted cert in a case,  Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International (docket 13-298), involving financial software to mitigate risk in settlement transactions. The trial court decided the software is unpatentable because it merely uses “the abstract idea of employing an intermediary to facilitate simultaneous exchange of obligations”. the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit split on the decision, teeing it up for the Supreme Court.

Timothy Lee of the Washington Post points out that if the Supreme Court broadly invalidates the software patents, it would allieviate the nuisance suits by ‘non-producing entities’ or ‘trolls’, since most involve software. Would it discourage Congress from its present mission to identify a legislative solution to the troll problem? (more…)

Buying a Tweet ad? Avoid FTC scrutiny by following these 3 weird little #Ad rules

You may have heard this before, social media is not exempt from the ad rules regarding testimonials and endorsements. The FTC announced (again) that marketers placing short form ads in social media must comply with three basic truth-in-advertising principles:

  • Endorsements must be truthful and not misleading;
  • If the advertiser doesn’t have proof that the endorser’s experience represents what consumers will achieve by using the product, the ad must clearly and conspicuously disclose the generally expected results in the depicted circumstances; and
  • If there’s a connection between the endorser and the marketer of the product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed.

The FTC has a helpful guide with tips on how to comply, including using “#Ad or #Sponsored in a tweet or post to avoid consumer confusion.

 

User help thyself! Take control of your privacy settings and don’t post private content online

Keeping your Facebook images private is a confounding problem. Ask Mark Zuckerberg’s sister Randi who couldn’t make sense of  FB’s privacy settings. Kashmir Hill, a privacy commentator at Forbes posted a funny analysis of the Zuckerberg predicament and easy to follow directions on how to adjust your settings to keep family photos more private. The settings are easy once you know where to look. User posting behavior sometimes doesn’t match with User privacy concerns.

Regarding content posted online as public is best– no matter what the privacy policy says.  Social media and other interactive businesses struggle  to keep their policies (and practices) current and reflective of how technology actually uses data to provide services online. Users who follow the steps in Kashmir Hill’s article and thinking before posting private content will have fewer social media privacy concerns.

In the Matter of Facebook: FTC Forces Privacy Fix

Like ButtonFacebook settled with the FTC today over its chameleon-like  privacy policy reports Gizmodo, putting the user into the driver’s seat for privacy settings. No more Big-Daddy-Knows-Best privacy changes.  FTC announced that given the long history of Facebook privacy changes and broken promises, it issued an order that Facebook be barred from making misrepresentations about the privacy of user’s personal information and users must opt-in to future privacy changes. Facebook must also prevent access of a user’s materials more than 30 days after his or her account is deleted, address privacy issues in new and existing products and services available on the site, and obtain regular third party audits of its privacy practices to ensure ongoing compliance with the FTC order.