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An FTC decision on Endorsements is Reverb-ing with Me…

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

I know, it’s been ages since I last posted to the Balancing Act.  It’s not been a question of just time; it’s also been a question of whether it was permissible to write about certain subjects under the FTC’s recently revised Endorsement Guides. Which is why I’ve been putting some thought into how the Endorsement Guides actually work in practice when it comes to blogging about a topic that your client – or your clients’ client – may have an interest in.

Late last month, I was helped along in my thinking by the FTC’s first administrative decision under the revised Endorsement Guides – against Reverb Communications. Reverb is a company with a niche practice – they provide marketing and PR for video game companies who develop for the iPhone platform.  According to the FTC’s complaint, Reverb’s fee often included a percentage of the sales of its clients’ gaming apps, giving Reverb added incentive to boost those sales in the iTunes Music Store.  Reverb’s enterprising owner, Tracie Snitker, along with other Reverb employees, became regular visitors to the comments section of the iTunes Store.  Posing as customers, they posted positive comments about their clients’ products to encourage their sale

Although the Reverb comments were mostly generic and unimaginative (“One of the Best,” “Really Cool Game”), they managed to attract the FTC’s attention.  One wonders if the vigilant Apple, patrolling the iTunes store for other violations, helped the investigation along here… But back to Reverb.  Of course, the Commission found against this kind of practice, stating that endorsers must disclose any “material connection” i.e. “any relationship that materially affects the weight or credibility of any endorsement and would not be reasonably expected by consumers.”  And when it comes to secondary liability, the Commission reminds us that under the Endorsement Guides, “someone who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product or service, should disclose the material connection the reviewer shares with the seller of the product or service.  This applies to employees of both the seller and the seller’s advertising agency.”

Applying Reverb to this blog, I realize that it’s becoming harder to identify which areas I can and can’t write about.  Many of the issues I want to blog on are also issues of paramount importance to my clients – and in some cases, their clients.  The collective policy interests of these companies pretty much engulf the universe of issues that I’ve been writing about in the Balancing Act.  Recently for instance, I wanted to write about a Third Circuit case that found no reasonable expectation of privacy in certain kinds of geo-location data (this was in the context of a government request, under ECPA).  I realized however that if I did so, then I would need to also disclose my material connections to certain clients, particularly those developing location-based apps and services, for whom the treatment of geo-location data – especially by the courts – is a very important issue.  I didn’t want to do this, especially some of these projects are still under development and a trade secret.

All of this must add up to one conclusion – I’ve decided to discontinue the Balancing Act – at least in the analytical, longer post format that I’ve been maintaining for over a year now. If you’ll forgive the pun, Reverb is a decision that’s “reverb”erating with me – especially when it comes to this blog.

Thanks for taking the time to read the Balancing Act during the past year; thanks also for the comments on specific posts.  I have learned so much from this experience – not just in terms of the substance, but also in observing, firsthand, how blogging and other web technologies are transforming how we read and get news.

As the ancient Greek orator Demosthenes once said, “small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.” This could also be said of the many blogs and websites that populate the Internet today.  Web technologies – on your computer, phone or other wireless devices – are ushering in a revolution that will change the human experience forever.  Just look at the potential impact of web technologies in the publishing industry alone – resulting access to more analysis, news and other content than ever before.  The last time we had a revolution of this magnitude – one that shook society at its core – was when Guttenberg invented the printing press.  As a result of having access to the printed word, literacy rates rose and people began to read and form opinions for themselves.  The Enlightenment and Reformation followed, and the rest was history.

I think the Web has the potential to be at least as significant as the printing press, if not more.  So this is definitely a story that is “to be continued.” I’ll continue to enjoy observing the Web’s evolution across multiple platforms (desktop, mobile), as well as all of the attendant issues that will necessarily crop up when government seeks to restrain that evolution in the interest of public policy.  And I still plan to blog – especially on other blogs – and will cross-post to the Balancing Act.  You should see me posting on the ABA’s Secure Times blog in the near future (I recently was appointed a Vice Chair of the ABA’s Privacy & Data Security Committee for the 2010-2011 year).

So I’m sure I’ll see you out there – especially if you follow these issues on a regular basis.  Again, thanks for taking the time to read the Balancing Act.

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Categories: Regulation Tags: ,

CWAG Panel touches on the challenges of Privacy 3.0

Yesterday, the Conference of Western Attorneys General (“CWAG”) hosted a superb panel entitled “Privacy 3.0 – Emerging Enforcement & Policy Issues” at their annual meeting in Santa Fe, NM.  Featured on the panel were FTC Commissioner Julie Brill, Assistant AG Shannon Smith of the Washington Attorney General’s Office, Professor Chris Hoofnagle of UC Berkeley Law School and Professor Paul Ohm of the University of Colorado’s Law School.

The panelists discussed the enforcement approach to privacy and data security in the 1.0 (notice and choice) and 2.0 (harm-based analysis) eras – and how this approach may need to change in the current age given continuing challenges: the emergence of scholarship showing that “anonymization” is a fallacy, the continuing struggle to create clarity around key terms used in privacy, and the need to educate consumers about basic privacy concepts.  The panel also discussed the States’ approach to some of these developments – such as the Massachusetts data law.

You can view the full webcast on CWAG’s site.

Disclosure: I worked with CWAG to help pull this panel together.

FTC announces its 30th data protection settlement – with Twitter

Remember when hackers got into Twitter’s databases, allowing them to send out phony tweets from the likes of then President-elect Obama and certain Fox news anchors? Well, the FTC was definitely paying attention to that incident.   Today, the agency announced an investigation and settlement of Twitter’s data security practices – its first ever case against a social networking service (and 30th data security case to date).  The term of the settlement is 20 years, and Twitter will be required to set up a comprehensive data security program, implementing privacy and security controls in its systems and workplace.  The company will also be subject to an independent, third party audit of its practices every other year for the next 10 years.. Read all the details on the FTC’s site.

Tipping Towards an Opt-In

A few years ago, I became an instant fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s groundbreaking book – “The Tipping Point” – based on an epidemiological theory that says that in aggregate, “little things” can make a big difference.  Since then, I’ve observed the phenomenon play out on the policy stage several times – financial reform and healthcare are two immediate examples that come to mind – and I wonder if the theory has any application in what’s currently happening with online privacy today.  I think it does – particularly if you view a tipping point in scientific terms i.e. the point at which an object is displaced from a state of stable equilibrium due to a series of successive events, into a new equilibrium state qualitatively dissimilar from the first.

To say that online privacy was ever in a state of stable equilibrium is a stretch.  We are however, approaching the end of a current era in online advertising and marketing – an era in which companies captured personal and confidential data from users, and then monetized that data to sell ads back to those very same users, often without the user’s authorization or knowledge. That state of equilibrium has been threatened by many events in the last few months – market developments, consumer outcry and regulatory attention all converging to catapult data privacy and security onto the national agenda and into the mainstream press.  Some commentators, such as Jeff Chester, have characterized these events as a perfect storm; I see them a bit differently – not a storm, but a series of occurrences that finally “tipped” the issue, as companies attempted to push the privacy envelope with various features that compromised a user’s privacy (and in some cases the user’s express wishes to keep their data private).  Each of these features involved sharing data with a third party and not surprisingly, each triggered a privacy outcry – because they provided no meaningful way for users to opt-out of the feature before personal data was exposed.

It’s amazing to think that most of these pivotal events only happened during the last three months.  To recap:

February 9, 2010 – Google launches Google Buzz, and overnight, transforms users’ Gmail accounts into social networking pages, exposing personal contacts.  Google later remedies the situation by making the feature opt-in.

April 27, 2010 – 4 Democratic Senators led by Chuck Schumer of New York, send a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg complaining about the privacy impact of Facebook services, including its instant personalization feature (which exposed user profile data without authorization on launch).  Senator Schumer follows up his letter with a formal request urging the FTC to investigate Facebook.  Facebook eventually announces new privacy controls.

May 5, 2010 – EPIC and a coalition of other advocacy organizations file this complaint, urging the FTC to investigate Facebook.  In the complaint, they assert that “Faceboook’s business practices directly impact more American consumers than any other social network service in the United States.”

May 14, 2010 – Google announces, via a post on their policy blog, that their Streetview cars have inadvertently been capturing payload data from open WiFi networks – in violation of US, European and other global data protection laws – for over 3 years.

May 21, 2010 – The Wall Street Journal reports that a group of social networking sites – including Facebook, MySpace and Digg – routinely share user profile data with advertisers, despite public assurances to the contrary.

The result? With each successive product or feature launch, the privacy debate is now tipping towards a privacy regime that could be much stricter than anything we’ve seen before – a requirement that companies get a user’s affirmative opt-in to any use of personal data for advertising and marketing purposes.

Privacy nerds may want to revisit the words of David Vladeck, head of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a New York Times interview that took place last August i.e. before the privacy mishaps of the last 3 months.  When asked about whether the FTC would mandate an opt-in standard for user disclosures, Mr. Vladek responded:

“The empirical evidence we’re seeing is that disclosures on their own don’t work, particularly disclosures that are long, they’re written by lawyers, and they’re written largely as a defense to liability cases. Maybe we’re moving into a post-disclosure environment. But there has to be greater transparency about what’s going on. Until I see evidence otherwise, we have to presume that most people don’t understand, and the burden is going to be on industry to persuade us that people really are well informed about this.”

The emphasis on transparency becomes even more important with the  impending rollout of the FTC’s privacy framework this summer.  Will  the FTC make an affirmative opt-in mandatory in all instances where personal data is being shared with a third party?  Clearly, an opt-in is one of the best ways to ensure transparency, and to give users meaningful notice about what data is being collected.  The question is whether an opt-in requirement would be so cumbersome it would turn users off of the service altogether.  For instance, would an opt-in be required once – before the feature is first launched, or each successive time it launches?

Also, it’s unclear whether the FTC’s framework will derive strength (or weakness) from a federal privacy law if such a law does indeed pass this session.  Critics on both sides have mostly panned the House legislation i.e. the Boucher-Stearns bill, but there is news of another, more stringent bill being drafted by Senator Schumer who reached his tipping point with Facebook as outlined earlier.

I saved my most important “little thing” for last. Even if you don’t believe that the privacy debate has yet to reach a tipping point, consider this: in June, the Supreme Court will issue its decision in City of Ontario v. Quon. This is the first time that the Supremes have considered the crucial question of what expectation of privacy users have in their electronic communications.  Their decision will most likely impact any regulatory or legislative scheme around privacy currently being proposed by the federal agencies or Congress.  Most importantly, a Supreme Court decision that finds an expectation of privacy in electronic communications will most certainly translate into increased obligations on companies that deal in these types of electronic communications and data.  A tipping point?  Absolutely.  In fact, such a decision would definitely signal something much bigger (to quote another popular book title) – a Game Change for advertising and marketing on the web.

The Fabulous Fab-FTC Connection

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Post updated @ 4:45 PDT

Today, all ears and eyes were on the Senate hearing (and interrogation) of Goldman Sachs executives, regarding questionable mortgage lending and investment practices at the investment bank.  The witnesses included Fabulous Fab aka Fabricio Tourre, the Goldman trader who deemed himself as the only survivor of certain “complex, highly-leveraged, exotic trades” that were created without his “fully understanding all of the implications of these monstrosities.”  Tourre was instrumental in creating and selling mortgage investments in the now famous “Abacus” transactions.  According to the SEC, he committed fraud by failing to disclose to Abacus investors a material fact: that the hedge fund that chose the mortgage-backed securities going into the Abacus investments, was the same hedge fund betting against that deal.  Ultimately, Paulson & Co., the hedge fund in question, made over $1 billion in profit when the sub-prime mortgage market collapsed.  The investors made nothing.  According to Senator Carl Levin, chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, such practices “contributed to the economic collapse” of 2008.

If the story of Fabulous Fab and his fellow Goldman traders strikes a nerve, it’s likely that the Democrats will eventually get the votes they need to halt debate and put financial reform legislation to a vote.  Despite Senate Republican efforts to block a vote on the bill (for two days in a row), the legislation appears to have widespread public support – a much-cited poll finds that two-thirds of Americans now support financial reform.

Even the little provisions in this bill could have an enormous impact.  For those of us following Internet regulation, I’m referring to the provisions in the financial reform bill that would expand the FTC’s civil penalty and rulemaking authority.  Since I first blogged about this issue last week, the lobbying effort aimed at removing these provisions from the final bill has intensified almost exponentially.  Here as with the financial reform bill, the US Chamber is at the forefront of an alliance that includes IAB as well as many online advertisers and businesses.  Their concerns are outlined in this letter, sent last Thursday, to Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate.

The question of whether financial reform is also the right vehicle to effect FTC reform looms large.  Will consumers – who overwhelmingly appear to support financial reform – also support an expansion in the FTC’s authority?  Is financial reform legislation the right place to grant expanded power to an agency that will lose its consumer financial protection authority under the proposed legislation anyway?

Whether the FTC provisions will prevail will depend on whose lobbying effort is better: business, (as represented by the Chamber and its alliance of internet advertising and marketing businesses), or the FTC (as represented by Senator Jay Rockefeller, chair of the Senate Commerce committee and FTC Chairman, Jon Leibowitz).  Leibowitz has argued that an expansion of FTC power is “critical” to protecting consumers on the internet; similarly Rockefeller has stated that the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the FTC need the right tools to “stop bad actors and protect Americans from fraudulent financial services and practices.”  And at least one commentator – Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy – has argued that there is a link between financial reform and a stronger, more effective FTC.  “Online advertisers want the same kind of lax oversight that led to the financial crisis, Chester recently told Internet News.  “They are truly terrified that an FTC with normal rulemaking power will force the industry to treat consumers responsibly.”

Which takes us back to the Goldman Senate hearing and Fabulous Fab.  Could his testimony, along with that of his other colleagues earlier today, be the tipping point that drives greater public support – not just for financial reform but also for general consumer protection enforcement?

If so, we may be looking at an FTC with expanded authority within the month.

Categories: Legislation Tags: ,

Today at the ABA: Expanding the FTC’s Role through Financial Reform

April 22, 2010 1 comment

I have also posted this entry to the ABA’s Secure Times blog.

The big question being debated at this morning’s session on financial reform legislation and the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency/Bureau: how will the legislation impact the FTC’s authority, both in terms of rulemaking and imposition of civil penalties?

In December 2009, the House passed the “Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009” (HR 4173).  An important provision in the bill would strip the FTC of its powers to regulate consumer financial protection — while also expanding the agency’s powers in two key ways.  First, by giving the FTC “APA” rulemaking authority for areas that fall within the FTC’s jurisdiction and second, by giving the agency greater latitude to assess civil penalties for unfair and deceptive practices.

These amendments will surely impact FTC enforcement of online advertising, marketing, privacy, and data security.  For instance, violations under the FTC’s expanded authority could trigger civil penalties even in the absence of an FTC order. Civil penalties would be assessed in antitrust cases brought by the FTC that include a consumer protection claim.

In addition, the HR 4173 language that expands the FTC’s authority would impose liability on companies that “substantially assist” in an unlawful act, even if the company does not have direct knowledge or responsibility for the violation.  This provision will probably raise some serious concerns for companies currently enjoying a safe harbor under the Communications Decency Act.

Today, FTC rulemaking jurisdiction comes in two flavors – “APA” rulemaking under certain laws as prescribed by Congress e.g. the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, as well as general rulemaking authority under the 1975 Magnusson-Moss Act.  Under the latter, the FTC can only regulate “prevalent” unfair and deceptive acts, and must justify that regulation with “substantial evidence.”   The key difference between these two types of rulemaking occurs during judicial review; a court can overturn an FTC regulation under Magnusson-Moss if the rule lacks a substantial evidentiary record to support it.  In contrast, FTC regulations enacted under the APA rulemaking scheme, such as those implementing COPPA, can only be overturned if the agency was “arbitrary or capricious” in enacting the rule – a much higher standard. As former FTC Chairman Muris explained in his presentation at the panel, Magnusson-Moss gives the FTC authority to act only when a problem occurs often enough to justify a rule, or when a problem has a common cause in a sufficient number of cases.

Current FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, supported by President Obama and the Administration, has strongly advocated for an expansion in the FTC’s authority, stating that it is “critical” for the FTC to carry out its mission of protecting consumers.  In particular, Leibowitz has argued that the procedural requirements of Magnusson-Moss – such as the requirement that a practice be prevalent before the agency can act – makes FTC rulemaking more burdensome than at most other federal agencies. Although the relevant amendments expanding the FTC’s power are missing from the Senate version of the legislation, it is widely expected that these differences will be worked out in conference.  Financial reform legislation appears to be on a fast track – earlier today, a Senate panel approved the bill, and both Republicans and Democrats have indicated that passage is likely.

The CFPA would be a new independent federal agency – the composition of which would vary depending on whether you are looking at the House (5 members and a Director for two years) or Senate Bill (5 members).  Its enactment would strip the FTC and other federal banking agencies of their federal consumer protection powers under a number of laws, including the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, the Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act, the Truth in Lending Act and the Truth in Savings Act.   In short, any product or service that results from or is related to engaging in a financial activity and that is to be used by a consumer “primarily for personal, family or household purposes” will come under the new agency’s purview.

At today’s session, we saw differing viewpoints from both Tim Muris, former FTC Chairman, and Julie Brill, incoming FTC Commissioner, on this current push to expand the FTC’s authority under financial reform legislation.

Former Chairman Muris views the FTC’s current role as important, and he sees FTC rulemaking as relevant in certain areas – e.g. the do-not-call rules.  He is concerned about the current proposals to expand the FTC’s authority because the agency often lacks industry-specific knowledge and expertise (I see this most recently in the area of privacy, as the FTC is currently gleaning this knowledge through its Exploring Privacy roundtable series). Muris also thinks the agency’s rulemaking authority under Magnusson-Moss is more than sufficient as it imposes an obligation on the agency to be clear about its proposed theories while focusing its evidence on key questions.  He cites the agency’s recent business opportunity rulemaking as an example of an instance where the FTC initially proposed a broad rule that would have disproportionately impacted both fraudulent and legitimate business.  The FTC eventually narrowed its proposed business opportunity rule after the public comment process.

On civil penalties, Muris thinks these are important only when a company violates an FTC order or rule.  He sees blanket civil penalty authority as a mistake that may have unintended consequences – such as a penalty on a firm’s stock price.  He’s also concerned that the standard of review laid out in the financial reform legislation will return the FTC’s definition of unfairness to its pre 1994 definition i.e. the Sperry-Hutchinson or “cigarette rule” which defines an unfair practice as one that is injurious to consumers, violate established public policy or is it unethical or unscrupulous.  As many know, Congress amended the FTC Act in 1994 to specify that an unfair act or practice is one that causes or is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers that is not reasonably avoidable and is not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or competition.

Providing a counterpoint to Muris’ remarks, FTC Commissioner Julie Brill, speaking “on behalf of herself,” is generally in favor of expanding the FTC’s authority.  She sees the FTC as both a law enforcement and regulatory agency.  She views civil penalties as just “one of the arrows” in the FTC’s quiver – not to be used in every instance, but as appropriate.  As a law enforcer, she does not see the FTC’s request to have civil penalty authority as unusual – since most state AGs already have this type of authority.  To view such penalties as “automatic” is particularly misleading to her, since the FTC would only be able to obtain such penalties after judicial review in court. Brill also sees the FTC as a regulatory agency and notes that APA rulemaking is enjoyed by most other federal agencies. In addition, she points out that APA rulemaking under the proposed amendments would also be subject to review by a judge in court. Brill also views civil penalties as helpful in quantifying equitable remedies to compensate consumers for their injury – e.g. disgorgement or restitution for data breach violations.

Taking a broader view of the situation, Brill sees an expansion of the FTC’s authority as a way to make the agency’s enforcement efforts more effective – which benefits both consumers and competition in the long run. She also feels that consumers want an agency that has the right enforcement tools – not an “emasculated” FTC – and finds it surprising that the issue is even being debated, given the events of the financial meltdown and the current economic recession.

On the subject of FTC regulation, Brill is strongly in favor of an update, noting that rulemaking under Magnusson-Moss can often take up to 8 – 10 years.  She recalls comments she made on the hearing aid rule as an Assistant AG in Vermont in 1992 – rules that have yet to be issued, nearly 20 years later.  Her statements suggest that expanded rulemaking authority might give companies in dynamic industries – such as technology – FTC regulation that actually keeps pace with innovation.

The question of course, is whether such FTC regulation would also stifle innovation preemptively.  Companies have started to take note of the recent push to expand the FTC’s power, and it is likely that the topic will continue to be debated fiercely in the coming weeks as financial reform legislation comes to a vote. Some have even expressed concerns that such an expansion of the FTC’s rulemaking authority could impact funding and investment in technology and Internet companies by both Wall Street and Silicon Valley VCs.  For more, take a look at this transcript of the Progress & Freedom Foundation’s recent forum entitled “Supersizing the FTC.”

Geo-Location: 4 Tales for April 16th

April 16, 2010 Leave a comment

The social media industry is undergoing a revolution of sorts, with innovative technologies that are giving new meaning to the term “location, location, location.”  In fact, some of the coolest features being announced by social media platforms are rooted in geo-location technologies.   These technologies are, for the most part, a new take on an old idea – GPS or the Global Positioning System – referring to the services provided by a series of US satellites that orbit the Earth. After forces from the former Soviet Union shot down a Korean Airliner jet in 1983, President Reagan signed an executive order making the technology available for commercial use.  Now, nearly 20 years later, companies are taking geo-location technologies to the next stage in their evolution and making them accessible to most anyone with a GPS enabled phone or device.

Just this past week, there were 4 different news stories about how geo-location is re-shaping social media.  In honor of Global Social Media Day (yes, that is today), I thought I would share them with you.

1. The first story is all about Foursquare. The 13-month old website that no one had really heard of before SXSW ’10, now has 799,000 users (including me, I just signed up). The company recently announced an innovative partnership with Bravo TV and continues to expand its family of partners.  This post is particularly appropriate as today, April 16th, is also Foursquare Day (fourth month, 16 is foursquared, clever?).  In San Francisco this evening, you can attend a Foursquare Swarm Party and earn a badge if you “check in” at least four times.  The incentives?  Discounts and free drinks – especially if you are a Mayor.  Foursquare’s unique proposition is that it brings advertising opportunities directly to the point of need. And it’s keeping up with its users too – to assure its advertising partners that its users are where they say they are.  Recognizing that some enterprising Foursquare patrons were checking in without actually being at the locale, the company recently rolled out “cheater code” to deter less energetic Foursquare users who seek mayorships from the comfort of their couch.

2. The second story comes from last year’s Foursquare (or is Foursquare this year’s Twitter?).  No longer the “scrappy startup,” Twitter is evolving into the communication platform of choice for those who choose to express themselves in 140 words (or thereabouts).  Today, it has over 100 million users who generate over 55 million posts a day (and a gargantuan amount of real-time data).  Making that data more relevant to a user will be key to Twitter’s continued success in an increasingly crowded space of competitors.  This week, at the company’s first developer conference (aptly titled “Chirp”), Twitter introduced its “points of interest” feature, which allows users will be able to reveal and search for exact locations.  The feature allows you to see all of the tweets or posts made from that location – a sort of real-time yelp on steroids.  Another tool called annotations allows users to reveal metadata, such as their location, in published tweets.  The meta data of course, does not count towards the 140 word limit.

3. Our third story is yet to be told.  It involves Facebook, the most popular site in the US (according to TechCrunch and Hitwise), and its plans to introduce geo-location services to over 400 million Facebook users worldwide.  The details will be unveiled at F8, the company’s sold-out developer conference to be held next week in San Francisco.  A sneak peak at the agenda suggests that the big announcement could be during the morning’s keynote, or perhaps during one of the breakout sessions for new tools (where the description currently reads “everything you need to know about our new tools. We’ll share more about this session at f8.”).  Of course, the impact of this announcement will reverberate strongly throughout the geo-location ecosystem, and it remains to be seen whether Foursquare and even Twitter will be able to keep up with the mighty Facebook once this feature launches.

4. Our last story is about the FTC and its never-ending race to keep up with the surging rush of new technologies, particularly those that focus on geo-location services.  The issue is already on the FTC’s agenda – in the form of a merger and a proposed rulemaking.  In their letter to the FTC, outlining concerns with the acquisition of AdMob by Google, Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Digital Democracy point out the privacy concerns of combining location data with a user’s data profile.  The FTC’s opinion on this particular transaction will most certainly signal its views on the importance of geo-location data in competitive and privacy analysis.  And, recognizing the increasing adoption of GPS-enabled smartvphones, particularly among users aged 13 and under, the Commission has invited comment on its Children Online Privacy Protection Rule 5 years earlier than Congress had originally prescribed in 2005.  In its announcement, the agency specifically identified the ability to collect “mobile geo-location data” in connection with behavioral advertising, as one of the technological changes that warrant re-examination of the Rule.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , ,