With the shelter-in-place orders imposed by the local and state governments, businesses are scrambling to transition to a virtual workforce and facilitating employees to work remotely from home. Educational institutions are no exception. School administrators and teachers have been working hard to create and implement plans to educate students at home, including maintaining a classroom curriculum through online platforms and incorporating daily or weekly interactions with the teacher and classmates through video chat or remote conferencing services.
We’ve previously written about “tweet-less, picture-less,” computer-operated accounts or bots, that make one appear more popular—a.k.a. influential on social media—than one actually is. Recently, legislators and law enforcement agencies have moved to crack down on bots, their evil cousins known as sock puppets, and other deceptive social engagement practices. Specifically, California passed a law that goes into effect in July 2019 banning the undisclosed use of bots to communicate or interact with a person for knowingly deceiving that person to influence commercial transactions or vote in an election. Meanwhile, New York and Florida announced settlements with Devumi LLC, a company that grossed over $15 million in revenue by creating, packaging and selling fake social media likes, followers and posts after the media exposed Devumi’s deceptive activities. The Devumi settlements mark the first of their kind indicating that such activity constitutes illegal deception of the public and, to the extent Devumi used stolen identities for its online activities, illegal impersonation.
Our colleagues Cathie Meyer and Amy Pierce have published a Client Alert titled California Enacts Mini-GDPR Effective January 1, 2020. Under the new law, covered businesses will need to update policies and procedures for responding to customer inquiries about collection, use, sale and disclosure of customers’ personal information or face stiff enforcement actions. Takeaways from the Client Alert include:
- The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 provides consumers with broad rights to control use of their personal information by covered businesses.
- Covered businesses will need to review and revise their existing privacy policies to make the required disclosures and to provide two methods for customers to inquire about use of their personal information.
The new law is effective January 1, 2020.
We have previously examined the evolving role of the hashtag in intellectual property law, particularly trademark law. While the nuances of the symbol’s existence and use protections continue to be ironed out by the courts and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the hashtag has quickly become a ubiquitous tool on social media. It is no surprise the legal field is utilizing the empowered hashtag to connect members of the industry, particularly on Twitter. Using #legal or #LawTwitter hashtags on social media has created informal “groups” of lawyers, judges and other legal practitioners who provide support, feedback and criticisms of its members (and others) on a variety of topics.
As we discussed recently, the Equifax data breach has inevitably brought a great deal of scrutiny and legal action against the credit reporting agency. Amidst the numerous brewing class actions and other reactions from government agencies and state AGs, it’s worth pointing out another front on which the company—and more importantly, individuals within the company—may face legal consequences.
Colleagues Rafi Azim-Khan, head of Pillsbury’s Data Privacy practice in Europe, and counsel Steven Farmer recently penned a piece providing a EU/UK perspective on lessons learned from the Ashley Madison hack, as well as on how to reduce the risk of cyber attack in an era where such incidents are all-too-common.
Read their article: Reducing the Risk of Cyber Attacks in the Wake of Ashley Madison.
In a recent lawsuit, Uber Technologies Inc. is accused of violating California’s Unfair Competition Law. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Uber misleads its users by: (1) falsely advertising its services as cheaper than a typical cab company for specific routes when its services can actually be more expensive during certain peak times, and (2) presenting offers for free ride credits in exchange for referring business without notification prior to the users making the referral that the free ride credits will expire. Although the allegations in the lawsuit do not mention Uber’s terms of service, the facts alleged in the lawsuit highlight the importance of having comprehensive terms of service.
As of the date of the writing of this post, for instance, Starbucks’ terms and conditions for its reward program spell out the expiration period for its “free drink or food item” rewards that are credited to a user’s account after certain requirements are satisfied. Prior to becoming an authorized user of the reward program, the user must agree to the expiration period set forth in Starbucks’ terms and conditions for the rewards.
Uber users similarly must agree to Uber’s terms of service prior to becoming an authorized user of its service. As of the date of the writing of this article, however, Uber’s terms of service do not appear to explicitly describe when and how its rates may change from its advertised rates or when free ride credits will expire. While there may be other ways in which Uber can approach the recent lawsuit, it is likely that early dismissal of the lawsuit based on its terms of service may have been possible had it included the foregoing rate and free ride credit terms.
All in all, it’s just another reminder that the going rate for an ounce of prevention remains a pound of cure.
Even freed from bricks and mortar, online retailers and service providers are realizing that market share is not infinite. A complaint recently filed by Angie’s List Inc. against Amazon Local LLC for its newly launched online home services network can be viewed as the inevitable result of what will happen as internet giants eye each other’s customer bases. Angie’s List Inc. provides consumers with online reviews of home improvement service providers (e.g., handymen, gardeners, electricians, etc.) from other consumers in their area. Although competitors have tried to challenge Angie’s List, the platform has remained the dominant player in the industry. The company largely credits the stable of reliable home service professionals it has built over the past twenty years for its market stability.
Last Friday, Homejoy—a startup that provided on-demand house cleaners—announced that it will be shutting down at the end of July. In an interview with Re/Code, Homejoy’s CEO attributed its fall to the recent Uber decision, further confirming the belief of many that the Uber decision poses a significant threat to companies in the “sharing economy” that rely on being identified as “technological platforms” that facilitate private transactions between independent service provider partners and consumers to avoid certain laws and regulations. Such identification may, for instance, allow companies to properly classify their service provider partners as independent contractors to mitigate costs of compliance with laws and regulations that govern employer/employee relationships. This article considers a few user-directed features or offerings that could help tip the scale in their favor.