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: Great For Billing Anywhere at Any Time !!!

Time Master Main Screen

The Time Master app is another of my most used apps, especially when I am out of town. This app costs about $10.00 and is incredibly useful for keeping track of your time and billing. On-Core, the developer, says, “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.”

Apple Store’s website, states that the app provides the following features:

  • Track time by start, stop and/or by duration
  • Sessions option can track “punch-in & out” for a single time entry
  • Single or multiple running timers
  • Timers keep running even if you are not running the app
  • Time Entries are by Client and can be sub-categorized by Project and Tasks
  • Powerful billing rates that can be defined in the following priority: Global, by Client, by Project, by Task or Custom per entry
  • Powerful Time Rounding: by hour, minutes and/or seconds
  • Multiple Filters to sort and view only what you need to see
  • 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
  • Display Reports right on your device that you can view and export via email in HTML and/or CSV format. By Client or Timesheet
  • Copy Client information from your Contacts list
  • Dual taxes for countries such as Canada
  • Import IIF files
  • Full Backup & Restore capabilities

I have personally used almost all of the features and have been pleased all the way around.  The app has been updated several times since I bought it and it does get better each time.   The app seems very well suited for use by any professional who is required to keep his or her time and is simple to use, especially once you have input most of your client information over time.  Probably the biggest task is setting up your database of clients, billable entries, and related project/matter information.

Noteworthy are the facts that the app is compatible with Quickbooks, it can be synchronized between two devices (Ipad and your Iphone), and it will allow you to import contacts information from Outlook, AOL, or other address books.  Lastly, Time Master provides you with the ability to invoice immediately via e-mail and to print invoices as a .pdf file.

I give this app the highest recommendation after having regularly used it for the last year plus.

Kno Tablet Could Prove to be Good for Lawyers Too …

Kno Tablet

While specifically designed for the educational community, this certainly looks like it could be a very good prospect for lawyers too.  The split screen could allow for the simultaneous viewing of an exhibit and notes, cases and outlines of arguments, codes, charts, timelines, mind mapping diagrams, and other documents which would otherwise have to be put side by side.

I certainly know that the single screen on the Ipad is limiting, especially while in trial or under the gun by some irritable judge who doesn’t have the patience for clicking or the old alt-tab function (even though flipping through pages would take longer and be louder anyway).  For right now I have been bringing both my laptop and my Ipad with me to evidentiary hearings.  As I have stated in prior posts, the convenience of a slate cannot be overstated.  The only improvement that I can think of is exactly what is proposed by the Kno tablet.  After looking at the specs, capabilities, and basic function, I think that this will prove to be a good addition to the tablet market — if those at Kno are able to grasp the foreseeably positive effect that this could have on the practice of law, which, for better or worse, is sometimes quite the academic venture.  I like what I see so far and hope that the folks at Kno will take a serious look at our industry and think of ways that it could improve efficiency in the courts and at our law schools.

RCBA Magazine Tech Issue

Here’s a link to the October 2010 edition of Riverside County Lawyer Magazine wherein my colleagues provide a wealth of information on electronic privacy issues, professional standards on technology, public records, and other stories concerning technology and the practice of law.  Consideration is given to what happens if you lose your IPad or other device with respect to client information, how medical privacy works, and how public records can be acquired (including e-mails, etc.).  A big thank you to the authors of this edition of our local bar magazine.