Have Legislators Run Amock with Internet Advertising Restrictions?

Have national and state legislators run amock with Internet advertising restrictions?  Well, it depends on who you ask.  Indeed, it seems that there are compelling arguments for:  a.) Protecting consumers from unreasonable culling, collection, and misuse of private/confidential information;  b.) Allowing a free market economy driven by the need for information on what products and services are available to each of us;  c.) Taking a balanced approach that acknowledges that the Internet has become a primary means of advertising for all businesses and professionals.

Before jumping to conclusions about all of the bad advertisers, helpless consumers, and knee-jerk reactions to the issue, it seems that a little bit of careful analysis is required.  EsquireTech views this as a very complicated question because of the First Amendment and principles underlying a competitive marketplace.

Not only is the risk for consumer information release and abuse an issue, data breaches are already costing companies millions of dollars per instance.  In fact, one can apparently calculate the total exposure to a breach of data security.  Knowing this to be the case, should legislation be treated as more of a temporary mitigation effort until data security protocols can be more objectively injected into the marketplace?

NetChoice.org has released its hitlist of questionable internet legislative efforts.  The list (the Iawful list) primarily focuses on laws designed to limit the culling of private consumer information.

More specifically, opt-in and opt-out provisions are proposed for advertisers, limits are proposed on targeted marketing from social websites, and the imposition of additional disclosure requirements is contemplated.

For obvious reasons, the issue of First Amendment rights permeates this entire process.  Consumers should have a right to evaluate information on products and services.  Companies should have the right to collect basic information in the open where that information will help them survive in a tough economy and to better their products and services.

It is also noteworthy that social website advertising is a good method for attorneys to reach potential clients.  As long as any advertising is generalized and not targeted at specific victims (ambulance chasing) or making promises of litigation results, the First Amendment interest in being able to communicate with potential clients is obvious.  “Networking” with others in the Internet Agora is the new form of meeting up at the public square, having a chat over the telephone, or hanging out at a social gathering.

These otherwise ‘traditional’ sources of potential clients have been concentrated in the new social media and it would be draconian to just assume that none of it can be good. Rather, it seems, that a balanced approach needs to be taken as to which advertisers are capable of culling information in the first place.

The average attorney Facebook advertiser, for example, is simply looking for general characteristics of users and trying to reduce overall expense for advertising where forcing a general distribution would be cost prohibitive and to sporadic to even be effective.  While the natural tendency for lawyers, Libertarians, and market participants might be to say that we really need to put the brakes on internet advertising, be careful — it might just be that if you stop the train too quickly, everything moves forward and and is crushed under the weight of itself.

Whether or not any of this legislation will come up against the commercial free speech rights of advertisers is an open question.

While there are arguments to be had about culling personal information as defined by law, it does not follow that geo-specific advertising to a DNS area is per se’ bad.  Anyway, here’s the list:

The iAWFUL Top Ten: Click On Any Item To Learn More About the Laws that Threaten Your Use of the Internet

The March 2011 iAWFUL Top Ten

  1. Congressional Do Not Track Privacy Bill – Do Not Track is an unjustified restriction on targeted advertising, which helps pay for free online services and content.
  2. Social Network Micro Managing These bills would prevent teenagers from sharing their address and phone numbers on social networking sites and further limit their online interactions.
  3. Affiliate Nexus Bills – An unconstitutional expansion of sales tax burdens to out-of-state businesses.
  4. Recurring Offer Restrictions – Restricting consumers’ ability to use convenient automatic renewals.
  5. Child Online Registry and Do-Not-Market Mandate – Dangerously exposes children’s email addresses while drastically restricting US advertisers’ ability to market to children.
  1. Behavioral Advertising Restrictions – Severe restrictions on websites’ ability to collect user information that enables websites to provide free services and content.
  2. Telemarketing Restrictions on Online Marketing – Sorry, but Do Not Call just Does Not Work for the Internet.
  3. Adolescents’ Online Privacy Protection Act – Strips teenagers’ access to any website collecting information without first obtaining parental consent.
  4. Remote Purchaser Reporting Mandate – Requires out-of-state companies to report consumers’ purchasing information to the state’s Department of Revenue.
  5. Restrictions and Liability for Geo-Location Tracking – Requires repeated consumer consent for the collection of geographical information.

What follows below is the Press Release from Jackie Speier.  EsquireTech is a bit torn on this one since I just argued a consumer privacy case where electronically maintained real estate loan information was released by a lender to operators of a Ponzi scheme, resulting in some $142,000,000.00 in losses in just one area of the state. (Richter v. Nationstar, et al.).

Just to add to the consumer misery, the victims of the fraud were subjected to a Star Chamber arbitration process where they were literally not allowed to be heard whatsoever and the lender was not required to release any of the electronic information its own employees were allegedly kind enough to share with Ponzi scheme operators.  The disallowance of any material evidence, discovery, or production from the defendants was done regardless of the fact that the ex-employee was convicted on felony fraud, an SEC judgment, a Department of Corporations C&D, CA Department of RE C&D, and a civil injunction won by our office.  How can a consumer fight the collection of and a release of electronic information if they are not even allowed to know how the leak occurred or what information was leaked?

In short, regardless of the overwhelming evidence that consumer information was abused, Nationstar and Centex Home Equity were able to rely on a sneaky arbitration process that quieted the potential exposure to the lender for sharing information without permission.  Then, to boot, the companies who released information are seeking to sanction the consumers for even bringing the issue up.

Again, it seems that a careful balancing act is required in order to weigh the interests of the advertising community with those of reasonable consumers.

Press Release from Representative:

Washington DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), a longtime consumer advocate, today held a press conference to introduce a package of privacy bills aimed at protecting the personal information of all Americans. The Do Not Track Me Online Act of 2011 (H.R. 654) would give consumers the ability to prevent the collection and use of data on their online activities. The Financial Information Privacy Act of 2011 (H.R. 653) would give consumers control of their own financial information. Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Consumer Action, U.S. PIRG, Consumer Watchdog, World Privacy Forum, the Center for Digital Democracy, and the ACLU all announced their support.

“These two bills send a clear message—privacy over profit,” Speier said. “Consumers have a right to determine what if any of their information is shared with big corporations and the federal government must have the authority and tools to enforce reasonable protections.”

There is no longer any anonymity on the Web. The most personal information about people’s online habits is collected and eventually bought and sold, often instantaneously and invisibly. Data collection practices have become a business in themselves, driven by profits at consumers’ expense. The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted these practices—which included targeting children—in its groundbreaking series “What They Know.”

The Do Not Track Me Online Act of 2011 would direct the Federal Trade Commission to develop standards for a “Do Not Track” mechanism that would allow individuals to choose upfront to opt out of the collection, use or sale of their online activities, and require covered entities to respect the consumer’s choice. Failure to do so would be considered an unfair or deceptive act punishable by law. The covered entity would have to disclose its collection and sharing practices, including with whom the information is shared. The bill would allow the FTC to exempt commonly accepted commercial practices like the collection of information for billing purposes.

A USA Today poll released Tuesday showed that 70% of Facebook members and 52% of Google users say they are either “somewhat” or “very concerned” about their privacy.

“People have a right to surf the web without Big Brother watching their every move and announcing it to the world,” Speier said. “The internet marketplace has matured, and it is time for consumers’ protections to keep pace.”

The Financial Information Privacy Act of 2011 would finally give consumers the ability to control the sharing of their own financial information. The bill mirrors legislation Speier successfully steered to passage in California that prevents financial institutions from sharing or selling personally identifiable nonpublic information with affiliates without an opportunity to opt-out, or in the case of unaffiliated third parties, a requirement that consumers opt-in. This bill gives consumers control of their personal financial information and provides meaningful but workable privacy protection.

“Because of the law we passed in California, consumers now have the clear and simple ability to prevent financial institutions from sharing their personal information,” Speier said. “Every American deserves that right.”

 

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Time Master: A Fantastic Billing App for Ipad and Iphone (Version 3.8)

Time Master ( Version 3.8)

Time Master by On-Core

This is absolutely one of my favorite apps as a lawyer.  It is relatively easy to use, creates usable reports, allows for backup and synchronization, and is a whole heck of a lot cheaper than Timeslips or other similar apps/programs.  The best part is that it allows you to do quick billing while you are out and about.  Recently, they improved the user interface, avatar, and general appearance.  The only criticism that I have is that you cannot really just input a .1 or whatever.  It keeps track of your time in session format, which is not always convenient for entry.

I give this new version a 9.8 out of 10. I strongly recommend that you check this app out, especially if you are a solo practitioner.

Here is what the developer’s site says about the app:

“On-Core Time Master is the ultimate time tracking app for your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.

The best, most powerful, comprehensive, easy to use time keeping app on the Apple Store is now even better. Time Master has the highest average rating of all the time management apps. And the other apps don’t come close to our new optional billing module. Our invoices are totally professional.

Our biggest fans are consultants, attorneys and contractors. Time Master is used by individuals working independently, to attorneys from some of the biggest law firms in the USA. If you need to keep track of time and expenses, you can’t find a better app than Time Master. We at On-Core are IT professionals, so we have firsthand experience with billing and keeping track of time. We know from personal experience what is needed and have made this app so flexible, it works for virtually anyone in any industry in which time needs to be kept.

Are you losing money due to poor record keeping?  Did you forget to log the time you spent on a small task and not bill for it last month? On-Core Time Master simplifies the process by having an app handy on your iPhone or iPod Touch, ready at all times, for you to track your time. You can quickly start tracking time with a few taps on the screen. Those little minutes add up every month and this application will easily pay for itself in one month! We think that you will find Time Master the ultimate time tracking application, with its superior ease of use, for your iPhone or iPod Touch.

We looked at all the other time keeping applications out there for the iPhone and iPod Touch, but did not find anything that quite fit what we needed, or had the flexibility we wanted. We also reviewed what people were saying they needed in a time keeping application. We’ve worked very hard to make Time Master the most flexible and powerful time tracking application in the App Store.

Features:

  • Track time by start time, stop time and/or by duration.
  • Session option can track “punch-in & out” for a single time entry.
  • Single or multiple running timers.
  • Support for daily Overtime / Doubletime.
  • Timers keep running even if you are not running the app.
  • Time Entries are by Client and can be sub-categorized by Project and even Tasks for a project. Note: sub-categories are optional and not required.
  • Powerful billing rates that can be defined in the following priority: Global, by Client, by Project, by Task or Custom for a single entry.
  • Powerful time Rounding by hour, minutes and/or seconds. Time can be rounded by: None (no rounding), Round Up, Round Nearest or Round Down. Can be Global or per Client.
  • Multiple Filters to sort by: Day, Week or Month. By Client, Project, Task, Expenditure, Reported and Invoice Status (with optional Invoice module).
  • Define the day of the week that your work week starts.
  • Track Expenses – from Mileage to Meals to Burning CD’s and anything else you want to define.
  • Track Cost vs. Price in expenses.
  • Display Reports right on your device that you can view and email in HTML and/or CSV format. By Client or Timesheet.
  • Is Time Zone aware.
  • Copy Client information from your Contacts list.
  • Currency symbol is automatically set by your Country locale.
  • Dual taxes for countries such as Canada. Second tax may be applied as Separate or Cumulative.
  • Import Clients, Projects, Tasks and Expenditure lists from CSV files using our templates. Works on the iPad now and iPhone/iPod’s when updated to OS 4 when it becomes available (due out this summer according to Apple). See Importing data from a CSV file
  • Save PDF invoices to your iTunes “Documents” folder.
  • Backup and Restore option using our free Time Master Central app via Wi-Fi.
  • Backup and Restore option using the iTunes Documents folder via USB cable.
  • Backup and Restore option using the secure online Dropbox service via the internet.
  • Currency support for the Invoice module. Set the currency in an invoice to other than your current setting and get the exchange rate from Yahoo.
  • TextExpander integration (see below).
  • Option to set audible reminder notifications for devices running iOS 4.0 or greater for running timers.
  • AirPrint enabled. Print reports or invoiced to an AirPrint supported printer.

Download our free Time Master Central app for your Mac or PC to:

  • Backup and Restore your database from local Wi-Fi connection.

OPTIONAL MODULES (one-time additional fee required as an “In App Purchase”):

  • Invoicing: If you want to do billing directly from your iPhone or iPod Touch then look no further. The most powerful invoicing module built directly into Time Master. Professional PDF invoices can be emailed to the client, including your own logo. Click here for more information.
  • Quickbooks Export: With the Quickbooks Export module you can export Time Entries to the Windows version of Quickbooks via IIF files. Click here for more information.
  • Synchronization: Wirelessly synchronize two or more devices. If you have an iPad and an iPhone and want to keep the data synchronized between the two devices, this is for you! Click here for more information.

The two main things that you will want to track and bill for are time and expenses. You can track time using start and stop times, start and duration, and/or timers. All time entries are tracked for a single day, so time entries cannot be greater than 24 hours. It will allow you to time across days, for example if you start a job at 8 p.m. and finish at 2 a.m., it will have a duration of 6 hours.

Expenses can be setup for recurring fixed cost items, such as burning a CD, reimbursement of hardware items, or fluid things such as toll expenses, automobile mileage, etc. Expenses can be tied to a Project so it can be reported with a specific Project.

Quick reporting can be done on the iPhone / iPod Touch with the Reports function. See your totals per client for a given date range and even drill down to see details. The report can also be emailed in an HTML table format and/or CSV format. The CSV files can be ZIP’d and even encrypted with a password. Use our free Time Master Central application to backup your database (and restore if necessary) on a Mac or PC. The data from the backup can be exported, in CSV format, on your Mac or PC to be used in other programs.

Adding new Clients, Projects, Tasks and Expenditures is super easy.  You can create them on the fly without having to navigate to a separate maintenance screen. To edit them you can tap on Setup, do you edit and then return to where you left off in Time Entries or Expenses. By selecting a Project or Task first will automatically fill in the Client field for quick entry.

We’ve made every thing that you can do as seamless as possible. For example if you are in a Time Entry, then hit the Setup tab and then delete the Client (and all it’s associated entries), and then you touch on the Time Entries tab again, it will exit the entry you were in and go to the main Time Entry screen.

To see all the details of what the application can do, please download the “Instructions” PDF manual […].”