INTERNET, TECHNOLOGY, AND SOCIAL MEDIA LAW AND NEWS

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          On October 3, 2010, Ice Miller attorneys Mike Wukmer and Eileen Moore presented “Social Media Best Practices: Promoting and Protecting Your Institution” at the 2010 Central Association of College and University Business Officers (CACUBO) annual meeting.  A panel of representatives from various educational institutions joined Ice Miller in a discussion on how colleges and universities are using social media, related risk management issues and best practices related to social media.  Panelists included:

          The panelists shared their experiences and advice on using social media to promote their schools. According to Donohoe, the University of Michigan has found ways to use social media as an effective tool for prospective students.  Fanter discussed Ivy Tech’s recent “Why Ivy Tech” scholarship contest, which encouraged students to post YouTube videos on why they should receive a scholarship.  The student whose video received the most views received a $5,000.00 scholarship – roughly the equivalent of a semester at Ivy Tech. 

          One common theme throughout the panelists’ experience was the need to monitor social media used by and on behalf of the university or college, and the effect on the school’s budget.  As Wilson explained, social media has raised questions of the most effective way to allocate both time and staff resources in addition to strictly financial resources. Some schools, like Ball State University and Ivy Tech College, have used student interns to create and monitor content as well as increase the school’s social media presence.  For example, using summer interns, Marian University was able to increase its number of Facebook fans three-fold in less than two years. 

          The panelists also focused on their schools’ guidelines of the uses of social media.  The University of Michigan has both guidelines for staff members using social media as well as a separate policy for student athletes blogging for mgoblue.com, a site dedicated to Michigan athletics.  Ball State University, which recently hosted a conversation with David Letterman and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, also has social media guidelines  which set forth the school’s institutional policy on the use of social media by students and faculty.  Other schools, like Marian University, have an overarching student code of student rights and responsibilities that covers all kinds of activities and communications while not specifying or limiting to guidelines to social media.  While facing ongoing concerns regarding privacy and other legal issues, each panelist agreed that social media was an effective tool for correcting misinformation, responding to criticisms, or communicating in a time of crisis.

          For more information on best practices for promoting and protecting your institution through social media, contact info@theiceloop.com.

Happy Birthday Facebook: My How You've Grown!

Posted by aplavin On March 2, 2010

The social networking giant  known as Facebook celebrated its sixth birthday in February.  It’s hard to believe that this once formerly student-only networking site has become a worldwide social-media phenomenon.  Facebook (or “The Facebook,” as it was formerly known), was initially restricted to Harvard students.  While it was quickly rolled out to other colleges and universities, only those with an “.edu” email address could become members.  In its early days, Facebook had none of it’s current media-sharing features.  There were no videos, no “walls” to post on, and certainly no up-to-the-minute news feed.  Initially, a Facebook user’s network was defined by the school she attended. In fact, until 2007 a prominent feature on a user’s profile was the list of classes in which he or she was enrolled.  More…

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is hosting a three part series of public, roundtable discussions to “explore the privacy challenges posted by the vast array of 21st century technology and business practices that collect and use consumer data.”  These issues include social networking, cloud computing, online behavioral advertising, mobile marketing and the collection and use of information by, among others, retailers, data brokers and third-party applications.  The FTC states that the goal of these discussion is to determine the best way “to protect consumer privacy while supporting beneficial uses of the information and technological innovation.” 

The first round table was held on December 7, 2009.  To obtain a transcript of that hearing click here http://htc-01.media.globix.net/COMP008760MOD1/ftc_web/FTCindex.html#Dec07_09.

The second installment of the FTC’s series took place on January 28, 2010 at Berkeley Law School.   Legal Pad (www.legalpad.typepad.com)  provided a narrative of the events and commenting on the remarks made.

According to the Legal Pad, top lawyers from Facebook, Google and Linkedin said that there should be no rush to protect Internet users with government privacy regulations.

Legal Pad reports that Erica Rottenberg, general counsel of LinkedIn, took the view held by the other large social media companies at a privacy conference in Berkeley today: trust us. “People want to do the right thing by and large,” Rottenberg said. “There is self-regulation that is going on and there is marketplace policing going on.” Lawyers from civil liberties groups, on the other hand, called for the FTC to crack down on social networks that violate users’ privacy. We’ve got to be more aggressive to acknowledge the roles of regulators to protect people,” said Lillie Coney, of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Legal Pad commented that a snit arose between Chris Conley, an ACLU lawyer, and Tim Sparapani, a Facebook lawyer and former ACLU lawyer, about just how much Facebook is doing to protect its users privacy.  Conley brought a petition with him, signed by 50,000 people, he said, attacking Facebook for its privacy settings. Legal Pad  reports that he plopped the thick stack of papers during the discussion. His gripe? Facebook’s new privacy settings have created an “app gap.” Conley says it means that third party applications get access not only to your info (age, gender, etc.) but all your friends’ info that use the default privacy settings on Facebook. “There is no option to opt out that my friends get shared with the application,” said Conley.

Sparapani spoke about Facebook’s commitment to privacy: “We are a walled garden in the sense that we never ever sell data to third parties,” he said. Dennis Yu, CEO of BlitzLocal, an online ad company, said that third party apps might not exactly share that same commitment: There’s always “a few bad apples that will sell completely against the terms of service.”

The FTC will host its third and final privacy roundtable on March 17, 2010. The event will take place at the FTC Conference Center in Washington, D.C.  According the FTC, the third roundtable will address such issues as how best to protect health data and other sensitive consumer information, and identity management and accountability approaches to privacy.  It will also look back at some of the themes raised throughout the series of roundtable events.

For the full story on Legal Pad, click here: http://legalpad.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/01/ftc-hearing-on-social-networking-brings-the-privacy-ruckus.html

Ice Miller previously published an article addressing FTC related social media issues:  Marketers Beware!  New FTC Guidelines Target Endorsements and Testimonials in Web 2.0 Advertising.  http://www.theiceloop.com/?p=12.

Blogged Out of Work: Privacy Concerns and Prying Eyes

Posted by Rabeh Soofi On January 30, 2010

How much privacy should employees have at work?  The Ice Loop recently found a story on the Wall Street Journal reporting that employees sometimes have more privacy rights than they might expect when it comes to the corporate e-mail server, and that some courts are showing more consideration for employees who feel their employer has violated their privacy electronically.

Among the federal and state circuits in the past year, there were notable examples of disputes between employees and employers related to the employee’s Internet activities on blogs or other social networking sites. In Shaver v. Cooleemee Volunteer Fire Department, for example, plaintiff William Russell Shaver brought wrongful termination claims against his former employer, which apparently terminated him in part based on his Myspace page and the comments on a blog shared with his wife.

Another notable case last year involving an employer’s intrusion into the online affairs of its employees was that of Pietrylo v. Hillstone Restaurant Group, which actually reached a federal jury trial earlier in the summer of 2009. In a surprising verdict, the Pietrylo jury found in favor of the employees Pietrylo and Marino, and against employer Hillstone, for violating the Federal Stored Communications Act and New Jersey Wire Tapping and Electronic Surveillance laws.

The facts in Pietrylo were as follows: Hillstone operated a Houston’s restaurant in Hackensack, N.J. Hillstone’s employees created a Myspace group the purpose of which was to “vent about any BS we deal with [at] work without any outside eyes spying in on us…Let the s— talking begin.” After the formation of the group, one employee accessed the site in the presence of a manager, who then informed other managers about the site. Given that the Myspace group site included sexual remarks about restaurant management and other offensive content about customers, drugs, and violence, Pietrylo and Marino were fired, and eventually filed suit against Houston’s bringing a litany of claims.

Although the jury award in Pietrylo was not significant, Pietrylo provides employers with a firm caution about intruding into the personal affairs of their employees online.

For the original WSJ story, please click here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125859862658454923.html?mod=rss_Today’s_Most_Popular

To obtain more information about handling employees who blog or engage in other social networking activities, please contact Ice Miller or info@theiceloop.com.

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