Google Privacy Policy, the FTC, and Your Rights

By | Business Legal Alerts, Federal Trade Commission, Privacy, Social Media, Social Networking | No Comments

According to the WaPo’s Craig Timberg (“Google facing FTC scrutiny over privacy — yet again”), Google has been accused in a consumer advocate complaint to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of engaging in deceptive trade practices by changing its privacy policy earlier this year to permit merging user profile data collected across the company’s various platforms.

Whether or not there is anything wrong with the Google privacy policy change remains to be seen. The FTC may even dismiss the claim on the merits.

What is clear is that the general rule of Internet free services applies. If you’re not paying for the service, you’re the product. It’s a Faustian bargain you enter into willingly with every online service that you use (from Facebook to Gmail).

Rule of Internet Free Services: You trade information about yourself and others in exchange for the service provider delivering what you want.

And if you don’t want to trade that information to be used for targeted advertising and other purposes, don’t use the “free” service. It’s really that simple.

Evernote Privacy Policy Change: Much Ado About Nothing

By | Business Legal Alerts, Internet Lawyer, Privacy | No Comments

evernote privacy policy updateUpdateEvernote has rescinded its planned change to its privacy policy because of the backlash. Users must affirmatively opt in before the company’s employees will be reading the content of user notes as part of the machine learning process. This is somewhat silly because the same issue has been ignored for many years by Evernote users who also use “free” email services like Gmail and Yahoo mail.

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Original Article

Evernote is updating its privacy policy to reflect that some company employees may view your content as part of overseeing the machine learning process.

There’s an uproar because some users (e.g. technologically-impaired journalists) naively think their information is stored online secure from prying eyes.

Here’s What You Should Know About the Evernote Privacy Policy Change

First, the general rule of thumb is that anything stored online is not secure. Just ask the celebrities whose naked selfies were exposed in “The Fappening.”

Second, many of those complaining about Evernote’s policy change think nothing about using Google Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and other email services where machine learning is also supplemented by company employees viewing user content.

Third, Evernote is doing the right thing by disclosing how the machine learning process actually works with the assistance of real people. If the company hid this information, you’d undoubtedly see shakedown lawsuits because of the lack of transparency (Tip – if you’ve got a website or an app, you should have your Internet lawyer make sure your privacy policy is consistent with your actual practices).

If you don’t want your stuff seen by third parties, don’t put it online. If you want to access everyday tools that make your life easier (like Evernote and Gmail), then understand there’s a trade-off that includes a loss of privacy.

Sale of Business Leads to Expensive Breach of Contract Lawsuit

By | Business Contracts, Business Lawyer, Business Legal Alerts, Buy Internet Business, Buy/Sell Internet Business, Sell Internet Business | No Comments

As reported in The Connecticut Law Tribune, “Oral Surgeon Wins $3.1M in Breach of Contract Suit.” Although you can read the details of the particular lawsuit in Karen Ali’s article, note the important lesson from this case. The terms and conditions of an agreement to buy or sell a business must be followed, including post-closing obligations each party owes the other.

When picking a business partner, be at least as careful in performing due diligence as you would when selecting a potential spouse for marriage. The monetary stakes are often higher in the business arrangement.

Also make sure that you have a signed professionally prepared buy-sell agreement so that if one party decides to leave, you’ve already put in place a road map to be followed that preserves business continuity and ideally does not adversely affect the relationship between the parties upon separation.

IRS Increases Small Business Penalties For Some Tax Errors

By | Business Legal Alerts, Taxes | No Comments

If you’re a small business owner, I highly recommend you read “Small business alert: Beware of stiff penalties for failing to file information returns” by Bill Bischoff.

Don’t get hit by costly U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) penalties for failing to timely file information returns or provide requisite financial statements to third parties. As explained in Bischoff’s article, this includes W-2s, 1099s, K-1s and other IRS forms.