Business Blog

FTC to advertisers: 7 New Year's resolutions

Sprinkle it on food.  Slather it on skin.  Place drops under the tongue.  Regardless of how consumers use your product, if you make weight loss claims, here’s a New Year’s resolution to consider:  Make sure you have sound science to support what you say.  That’s just one message marketers can take from FTC actions against Sensa, L’Occitane, HCG Diet Direct, and LeanSpa, settlements that will return big money back to consumers – including $26.5 million to peopl

When a data oops becomes an uh-oh

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating:  Glitch Happens.  In the case of Accretive Health, Inc., it was a laptop taken from the passenger compartment of an employee’s car.  What transformed this oops into a full-fledged uh-oh was that the laptop contained files with 20 million pieces of data about 23,000 patients, including sensitive health information.  And according to the FTC’s lawsuit, the employee in question didn’t need all that

COPPA crowdsourcing. Yeah, really.

We got an interesting suggestion recently.  “With how fast technology changes, how about building in a process so companies can see if newer methods meet the requirements of existing rules?”  A related recommendation:  Crowdsourcing.  “The FTC could publicize an idea and get feedback from people.”  We’re fans of innovation, too, which is why the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule includes a procedure for companies to ask if methods of getting parental consent not listed in COPPA nonetheless meet the Rule’s standards.  As for crowdsourcing, we call it a notice and request for public

Risky business

No one is sliding across the living room floor in shades lip synching to Bob Seger, but violating the FTC’s Risk-Based Pricing Rule is risky business nonetheless. That’s the message of the FTC’s $1.9 million settlement with telecom company Time Warner Cable, Inc., the first case brought under the Risk-Based Pricing Rule.

Shedding light on what your app is up to: 3 lessons for developers

Goldenshores Technologies’ “Brightest Flashlight Free” is an incredibly popular Android app downloaded by tens of millions of consumers.  But did those people know that when they used the app, it would transmit their precise location and unique device identifier to third parties, including ad networks?  According to a lawsuit filed by the FTC, Goldenshores didn’t give people the straight story about how their information would be used and then compounded the problem by making them think they could exercise a choice about it – a “ch

And now for something completely different

Take out your mobile device where you input all that personal information and make note of three upcoming FTC events where the topic of conversation will be, well, the collection and use of all that personal information.  But this time we're switching things up a bit.  The FTC's Spring Privacy Series will consist of three two-hour seminars focused on emerging issues that consumers, industry groups, consumer advocates, and academics are starting to talk about.

After the cameras stop rolling

Every so often, the FTC announces a law enforcement sweep targeting a particular kind of deceptive practice.  Sometimes there’s a press conference featuring federal agencies and state AGs.  Blue suits and official seals abound.  A typical headline:  “More Than 70 Actions Brought By FTC and Its Law Enforcement Partners.”  But do you ever wonder what happens after the cameras stop rolling?

Combating "cramouflage": What businesses can learn from the FTC's latest mobile case

Call it "cramouflage" — unauthorized (and unexplained) charges that show up on people's mobile phone bills.  Regardless of whether consumers use cell phones, land lines, or two cans tied together with string, it’s illegal to bill them without their express consent.  That’s always been the law.  It’s the law now.  And we’ll go out on a limb and predict it’ll always be the law.  A settlement involving "cramouflage" charges is the FTC's latest foray against deception in the mobile marketplace.

Heads up, payment processors

Here’s a fun fact we didn’t know:  Contrary to popular belief, ostriches don’t bury their heads in the sand.  And here's a disturbing observation borne out by FTC experience:  Some companies that grease the wheels for fraudsters do bury their heads in the sand.  Others go a step further and help cover up their affiliates’ wrongdoing.  Either course of conduct could land them in legal hot water.  That’s just one message businesses can take from the FTC’s settlement with Process America, Inc.

Blurred lines

Blurred lines are the talk of the media world.  No, not that “Blurred Lines.”  What advertisers, consumer groups, academics, and the FTC are trying to put into focus is the blending of ads with news, entertainment, and other content in digital media — sometimes called “native advertising” or “sponsored content.”  That’s what’s up for discussion at a December 4, 2013, public workshop at the FTC.  Blurred Lines:  Advertising or Content? will explore ways that consumers g

How your business can help protect those who protect us

Maybe it’s a “We Support Our Troops” sign at the front of your business or a special discount for members of the military.  There are lots of ways companies try to show appreciation to servicemembers and their families.  If Veterans Day has you thinking about how to say “thank you” for their sacrifice, the FTC has an easy first step:  Honor their legal rights.

How I spent my summer vocation: FTC revises Vocational School Guides

We’ve all seen ads for vocational schools promising the inside track on well-paying careers in exciting industries.  If you have clients in the vocational school business, class is in session about revisions to key FTC guides.

In place since 1972, the Vocational School Guides (known more formally as the Guides for Private Vocational and Distance Education Schools) are designed to protect potential enrollees from deceptive statements about educational programs that claim to qualify people for certain occupations or trades.

In a world . . .

In a world where your coffee pot secretly notifies your toaster that you’re ready for breakfast, one agency dares to stand up and ask the question others won’t:  Just what are the consumer privacy and security implications?

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