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Privacy Issues in the News - 8/18/2009

Greenebaum Doll & McDonald PLLC’s Privacy Team is a multidisciplinary group formed to assist clients in understanding and complying with the increasing number of privacy and security laws and regulations being passed by state and federal government.

Members from Greenebaum’s Privacy Team bring knowledge from a broad range of practice areas including health care, insurance, employee benefits, labor, intellectual property, information technology, corporate, banking and finance, and education. 

The following is a summary of recent privacy issues in the news.  If you have questions regarding privacy law issues, please contact us. 

In this issue:

Employer Social Networking Policies and Twitter

Text Messages Are "Calls" Subject to Automatic Dialing Restrictions

New Self-Regulatory Principles for Behavioral Advertising

New "Vanish" Software Makes Digital Data Self-Destruct

Enforcement of the FTC’s Red Flags Rule Delayed a Third Time

Employer Social Networking Policies and Twitter – The explosion of Twitter, especially among users 35-49 and often at work, should trigger a review of workplace social media policies traditionally focused on e-mail and internet. As with those tools, companies must balance the business opportunities against the risk of reputational harm, liability, and loss of sensitive or proprietary information. Where a company draws the line is dictated by its corporate culture, and policies range from embracing new media to banning employee use. Because Twitter creates a record of communications, monitoring compliance with company policy is not difficult. Employers should have policies to address use of social media in the workplace, and should make sure these policies reflect new social networking tools as they develop.

Text Messages Are "Calls" Subject to Automatic Dialing Restrictions – The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) outlaws telemarketing by means of "calls" using automatic telephone dialing systems and prerecorded messages where the recipient is charged for the call. The Ninth Circuit, reversing the lower court and ruling against Simon & Schuster, recently held that the TCPA applies to text messaging, not just traditional calls. This interpretation is in keeping with the FCC’s implementing rules, which define "calls" broadly. As companies seek new ad venues for reaching customers, they must keep abreast of how courts apply privacy laws to these emerging technologies.

New Self-Regulatory Principles for Behavioral Advertising – In response to a call from the FTC and in an effort to stave off federal legislation, the major stakeholders in online behavioral advertising have outlined principles to protect consumers’ privacy. Among the principles are transparency (so a consumer knows when her online behavior is tracked), consumer control (so she can exercise choice about collection, use, and transfer of data about her), and data security (so data is not lost or stolen). Compliance is technically voluntary, but industry self-regulation in advertising historically has a very high compliance rate (and failure to adhere to the principles can land an advertiser before the FTC). Any company using a third-party ad network should familiarize itself with the principles, available at

New "Vanish" Software Makes Digital Data Self-Destruct – Researchers at the University of Washington have developed software to make electronic messages self-destruct after a specified period of time. The software is based not on automatic erasure but on encryption of the data where the encryption key gradually erodes with disuse. With the increased popularity of cloud computing, this technology appears to be a promising way to handle risk without relying on the integrity of a third party encryption service.

Enforcement of the FTC’s Red Flags Rule Delayed a Third Time – In response to a House Appropriations Committee request and under pressure from industry groups, the FTC has again delayed enforcement of the Red Flags Rule. The Rule requires financial institutions and creditors to identify patterns, practices, and activities that are signs of potential identity theft, but there is concern about which entities are classified as creditors. The ABA has called for an exemption for attorneys, but the FTC thus far has indicated it does not believe it has the authority to issue an exemption.

Even though the content of the above Greenebaum Doll & McDonald e-bulletin is primarily informative, state and federal law obligates us to inform you that this is an advertisement. You have received this advisory because you are a client or friend of the firm.

About Greenebaum Doll & McDonald PLLC
Greenebaum Doll & McDonald PLLC is a widely-respected business law firm with approximately 200 legal professionals in six offices, serving local, national and international clients in virtually every industry. A forward-thinking business law firm, Greenebaum is committed to the practice of Breakthrough Law®.

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