Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is hosting a workshop today on “native advertising” – the practice of blending ads with news and other content in such a way to make it difficult to distinguish paid and unpaid content. The agency will tackle issues concerning the popular marketing tool’s blurred lines between advertising and editorial content. Public Citizen’s President Robert Weissman, alongside industry representatives from Buzzfeed, The Wall Street Journal and others, will speak on the panel addressing best practices in transparency and disclosure.

The use of native advertising and sponsored content – content created by or on behalf of the advertiser that “runs within the editorial stream [and] integrates into the design of the publisher’s site” – has become increasingly pervasive, as companies seek online marketing tools that are not obvious attempts to sell goods and services. A marketing research firm predicted that spending on sponsored content would rise by 22 percent between 2012 and 2013, up to $1.88 billion.

Because marketers pay for, and often create, sponsored content, and the end goal is commercial, it should be clearly labeled as advertising, pursuant to FTC disclosure rules. (Marketing industry leaders claim that sponsored content is not always advertising, so it should not be labeled as such.)

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Photo credit: Andre Kelpe, Twitter - @fs111

In light of the extensive protests of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which took place Saturday, June 9 all across Europe, Australia, and the U.S., concerns about similarities between ACTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have been surfacing. ACTA was signed by the U.S., Australia, Japan, Canada, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea in October 2011, quickly followed by the European Union (EU) and 22 of its member states in January 2012. Nevertheless, it faced almost immediate push-back from citizens of the EU, most notably in Poland, where crowds came out to protest ACTA in large numbers and members of Parliament wore “Anonymous” masks into the legislative chambers. The public’s outcry showed results. Four committees of the European Parliament, which must ratify ACTA for it to be adopted as EU law, recently opposed the agreement. Resistance to ACTA springs largely from copyright provisions which legal experts and Internet freedom advocates fear would lead to censorship and breaches of privacy rights. A similar treaty, the TPP Agreement, is currently being negotiated in secret by nine Asia-Pacific countries: Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Peru, the U.S., and Vietnam.

The parallels between the TPPA and ACTA are uncanny. They contain similarly harsh provisions pertaining to intellectual property rights as well as an appalling lack of transparency in the negotiations of the agreements. Many tracking the TPP say its opacity makes the ACTA process look like a pinnacle of open government in comparison. One common theme running through the accords is the United States’ insistence on stringent IP rules, largely at the behest of the entertainment, content, and pharmaceutical industries. Working through lobbying groups like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), these corporations work to secure draconian IP rules by influencing trade agreements such as the TPP. Other lobbying groups influencing the negotiations are PhRMA and BIO, representing the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries respectively. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is the governmental body responsible for representing the U.S.’s interests in trade discussions. But USTR has been acting as a mouthpiece for these industries throughout the course of the TPP negotiations, advancing the interests of the 1% and ignoring the pleas of the 99%.

The European Parliament scheduled a vote on ACTA for July 3. With the upcoming 13th round of negotiations on the TPPA between member-countries to be held on July 2 – 10 in San Diego, California, there is urgent need to act to protect internet freedom and privacy and access to affordable medicines globally. While ACTA represents a blatant infringement of privacy rights and excessive IP provisions, USTR’s proposals to the TPP go even further. For example, the US-proposed IP chapter aims to lengthen, strengthen, and broaden IP monopolies, and in some areas is more heavy-handed than ACTA. The parallels between these two agreements have not gone unnoticed, and activists are using momentum against ACTA to fight TPP. The grassroots activist group “Internet Freedom Movement” recently began this page opposing the TPP, the website “” encourages visitors to write to their legislators to oppose both agreements, and the advocacy group Citizens Trade Campaign has a similar project.

Time is running out to oppose the stringent IP rules and Internet privacy infringement embedded in ACTA. But even if ACTA is vetoed in Europe, the TPP still lurks out there, threatening our due process rights, privacy, and rights on the internet. And while the future of TPP is unclear at this point, one thing is certain: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over…”

A New Jersey man who was left legally blind after supposedly botched lasik eye surgery decided to criticize his surgeons online to inform others of his dissatisfying experience. He ran into more trouble than he anticipated, though, after sticking the surgeons’ names in the domain name.

The surgeons, Herbert Nevyas and Anita Nevyas-Wallace, who have offices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, sued the patient for trademark violation. Public Citizen attorney Paul Alan Levy, who is representing the patient in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, says that argument doesn’t fly.

“The domain names in question do not violate the Nevyases’ rights under trademark laws, and their efforts to obtain the names constitute reverse domain name hijacking,” he said. “The Nevyases’ attempts to close the website stifle [the patient’s] free speech rights.”

Find out why.

The folks at Facebook would like you to know that they’re concerned about your privacy. So much that they’re willing to create a nonprofit foundation dedicated to online privacy, while at the same time profiting hugely from their business of allowing you to make your most private thoughts and moments available to anyone you’ve ever met. Facebook’s offer to create the foundation is part of its proposal to settle a class-action lawsuit brought against it for violating the privacy of its users.

If you recall, the case involves Facebook’s Beacon marketing program, which back in 2007 and 2008 let all of your Facebook friends know about stuff you bought online. Well, on Monday, Public Citizen filed an objection to the proposed settlement, saying that it did a lot for Facebook and the lawyers in the case but very little for Facebook users.

From the Public Citizen news release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Facebook’s solution to complaints that it violated the privacy rights of potentially millions of its users is no solution at all, Public Citizen said today in opposing the settlement of a class-action lawsuit that was filed against the social networking giant.

The central piece of the proposed settlement is the creation of a nonprofit foundation that would largely be controlled by Facebook. The foundation would be charged with funding projects and initiatives that “promote the cause of online privacy, safety, and security,” which Public Citizen attorney Greg Beck likens to putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.

Under the proposed settlement, Facebook would pay $9.5 million into a settlement fund, with as much as a third of that money going to pay the class-action attorneys. The remaining money would go toward the creation of the new privacy foundation. Facebook would choose

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How much of your personal information is Google willing to turn over to a third party without a fight? We’ve asked a California federal court to unseal a report that would give customers of the world’s largest Internet company an answer to that question.

Google handed the report in question over to a judge in September to comply with a restraining order requested by Rocky Mountain Bank. The bank requested the order after it mistakenly sent the bank records for more than 1,000 customers to the wrong Gmail account. In the order granted by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, Google was told to deactivate the Gmail account and to provide contact information about the user of the Gmail account and whether he or she had read the e-mail. Google and the Gmail account holder also were told they couldn’t read the email, download the records or forward them to anyone.

A Gmail user who did nothing wrong had his or her account shut down because of the bank’s monumental screw up. And Google, a company that basically prints its own cash, didn’t lift a finger to protect the rights of one of its users. I love my Gmail account but this is a good reminder that there is

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