Last week, a California judge ordered Twitter to reveal information that identified a user who criticized three politicians in the U.K. The U.K. paper The Guardian described the court proceedings as a "landmark legal battle," but this kind of legal dispute happens a lot more often than people might think. In fact, numerous people have claimed they were libeled and gone to court in an attempt to learn their critics' identities.
Last November, the Web site Talking Points Memo posted a story about an FBI investigation into insider trading that was illustrated with a photo of the New York Stock Exchange. The NYSE took offense. This week, the organization sent the news site a cease-and-desist letter demanding that it remove the photo on the theory that posting it violated the stock exchange's trademark.
When companies violate their privacy policies by, say, selling data about consumers despite promises to the contrary, the Federal Trade Commission can accuse them of engaging in deceptive practices by promising consumers one thing and then doing another. But when those companies lack privacy policies, the FTC can't easily charge them with deception even if those companies collect questionable data, or sell information that users thought was confidential, to ad networks.
Judges in the U.S. don't impose gag orders all that often, and even when courts issue such orders they're often overturned on appeal, thanks to the First Amendment's free speech guarantee. In the U.K. on the other hand, not only can judges issue orders banning the media from publishing truthful facts, but the judiciary can issue so-called super injunctions, which prevent the media even saying that a gag order exists. Newspapers in the U.K. apparently tends to honor those orders. But not even super injunctions can prevent Web users from posting information on platforms like Twitter. Just ask Manchester United ...
The Federal Communications Commission has just issued a report concluding, for the second straight year, that broadband isn't being deployed in a reasonable or timely manner. The FCC's conclusion rests on several data points, but two in particular stand out. First, up to 26 million Americans, mainly in rural areas, lack access to high-speed Web service. Secondly, up to 100 million Americans aren't purchasing broadband subscriptions -- in many cases because people aren't willing to pay the high costs of monthly subscriptions.
Last year, vacation resort chain Sandals unsuccessfully attempted to discover the identity of a Gmail account holder who wrote a string of emails criticizing the company. Sandals claimed that the emails libeled the company by suggesting its hiring practices were racist.
A federal judge in Colorado is temporarily halting proceedings in all 35 active lawsuits in the state brought by copyright enforcement outfit Righthaven.
Fourteen months ago the Federal Trade Commission said it was seeking input about whether to revamp the rules regarding the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. COPPA, enacted in 1998, prohibits Web site operators from collecting personal information from children younger than 13 without their parents' consent. .Though the agency has been gathering information, it isn't moving fast enough for everyone. Today, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) urged the FTC's consumer protection chief to speed things along. "All I'm saying is: Get the rules out," the head of the Commerce Com
Among the array of privacy bills making their way through various state and federal legislatures is a California measure that would require social networking sites to follow new privacy rules.
This last year hasn't just seen an increasing amount of legislative interest in online privacy. It's also seen an influx of privacy lawsuits against Web companies and ad networks. Some of the companies who were sued agreed to settlements, while others fought back in court. Results so far appear mixed, but at least a few defendants prevailed on the theory that the Web users weren't harmed by the alleged privacy violations.