April 2014

Time for a gut check?

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano and the umpire yelling “Play ball!” on Opening Day, there’s another inevitable harbinger of spring:  ads for bogus products promising easy weight loss just in time for bathing suit season.  But this year, media outlets have a new tool for spotting false claims before they’re published or aired – and before consumers risk their money (and maybe even their health) on a worthless pill, potion, belt, cream, or whatever.  If you or your clients run ads for weight loss products, it’s time for a gut check.

New COPPA FAQs can help schools make the grade

In a lot of schools, kids are more likely to be looking at screens than at blackboards.  One advantage:  fewer annoying chalk squeaks.  Of course, the benefits of the connected classroom go far beyond that.  But educators, administrators, and parents have been asking an important question:  How do the protections of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the accompanying FTC rule apply in the school setting?

Checking up on consumer generated health information

Whether it’s a website where people diagnosed with the same medical condition can share their stories or an app to find out how long it will take in the gym to burn off a Macadamia Mania Ripple sundae, consumers are taking their health in their own hands – and generating a massive amount of digital data in the process.  If you or your clients have jumped into this burgeoning market, here’s a development you’ll want to follow.

What would your employees do?

The Business Blog reflects sources some might describe as, well, eclectic – everything from Supreme Court jurisprudence to 80s TV.  But today’s post comes from a message on a neighborhood listerv in Washington, D.C.  It starts with a scam, but ends on a note that should be of interest to retailers.

Cram doesn't pay

Cramming unauthorized charges onto phone bills violates the FTC Act, of course.  But depending on the circumstances, cases like that also can result in criminal prosecution.  Two brothers who bilked consumers out of millions as part of a cramming scam are now behind bars – giving a whole new meaning to the term “cell phone.”  And the prosecutors who brought the case, Assistant United States Attorneys Hallie Mitchell Hoffman and Kyle F.

Heartbleed May Cause You Some Heartache

If you’re thinking “Heartbleed” sounds serious, you’re right. But it’s not a health condition. It’s a critical flaw in OpenSSL, a popular software program that’s used to secure websites and other services (like VPN and email). If your company relies on OpenSSL to encrypt data, take steps to fix the problem and limit the damage. Otherwise, your sensitive business documents and your customers’ personal information could be at risk.

Big day to talk big data

It’s funny how kids sometimes mishear famous phrases – for example, “And lead us not into Penn Station” or the confused Elton John lyric “Hold me closer, Tony Danza.”  We once heard first graders end the Pledge of Allegiance by saying “One nation, individual, with liberty and justice for all.”  On second thought, maybe they were on to something.  Analytics techniques are out there that categorize consumers and make predictions about individual behavior.  For sure, it can offer insights to advance medical research, transportation, manufacturing, etc.  But to what extent can big data

FTC staff to Facebook and WhatsApp: Privacy promises prevail

When one company acquires another, there’s usually a lot of discussion about how to harmonize divergent procedures – everything from personnel policies to buying paper clips.  But a letter to executives at Facebook and WhatsApp from Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, should remind businesses there's one thing that doesn’t change: privacy promises made to customers.

They’re baa-ack

That was the catchphrase from the “Poltergeist” movie series, but we want to warn you about something more dangerous than ghostly apparitions emanating from your TV.

Corporate officers: Don’t assume you’re Inc.-ognito

That “Inc.” after a company’s name can offer certain legal protections, but immunity from liability under the FTC Act isn’t necessarily one of them.  If you’re a corporate officer or number them among your clients, a recent settlement with two people involved in a debt collection operation should underscore that message.

Business execs: 7 things to consider before using that app

Every tech publication seems to have a list of best apps for business.  Whether the goal is to analyze corporate cash flow or avoid the dreaded middle seat that doesn’t recline, there’s an app for the task.  But have you considered the kind of sensitive customer or employee information some apps let you transmit?  Developers may claim to take steps to secure the data, but as the FTC’s proposed settlements with Fandango and Credit Karma demonstrate,