Why FTC Gridlock Is Good For Your Website

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What will FTC gridlock mean for Internet privacy?

It looks like the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is going to be gridlocked with a 2-2 tie between Democrat and Republican appointees for a while.

Why?

Republicans in Congress have no plans to let President Obama appoint a tie-breaking fifth commissioner. This is not surprising when the administration has aggressively used regulatory agencies to affect commerce in ways never contemplated by the underlying legislation being enforced.

Why is this good for your business online?

A gridlocked FTC is more likely to focus on enforcing existing regulations covering ecommerce instead of coming up with new regulatory schemes that burden your business.

If the FTC enforced what’s already on the books, there are plenty of ways to go after false and deceptive trade practices online to protect consumers.

Will this gridlock be broken?

Yes…when the Obama administration gives an enticing carrot to congressional Republicans in exchange for getting a fifth commissioner appointed. That may not even occur in 2013. Until an appointment deal is reached, there’s likely to be a period of stability where the FTC’s consumer protection rules don’t significantly change.

What can a gridlocked FTC do?

The promotion of Commissioner Edith Ramirez to FTC Chairwoman means an increased focus on Internet privacy rights. This means you should review your ecommerce privacy practices with your Internet lawyer to ensure you’re complying with the law.

Crazy People 101: How to Protect Yourself From Them on The Internet

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Crazy people are one reason Internet privacy is important

As an Internet lawyer, I get emails from crazy people. Every once in a blue moon, some real nutcase will take the time to express their crack addict poetry by snail mail. These are more than the disgruntled rants of an Internet con artist who has been crossed.

When I received a raving post card today from one of these specimens from the shallow end of the gene pool, it was a reminder of why Internet privacy is important.

Unfortunately, there are lunatics online who are one fry short of a Happy Meal, and live in an alternate world that doesn’t resemble reality. In short, they’ve kicked the sanity habit.

Many are harmless cranks even if they aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer.

However, some of these kooks are dangerous and should be institutionalized before they harm themselves or others. In a world where killing sprees occur nearly every day, there are people who will harm you for any reason or no reason at all.

Regardless of the irrational motives driving these loonies, what’s important is to protect yourself against them when you go online. Internet privacy is key. This includes never revealing your home address online or making it easy to find you.

What’s the first step in protecting yourself? Make sure your website, your social networking sites, and your domain name registrations use your business mailing address instead of your home address.

To learn more about protecting yourself from psychos online, get the Internet Attorney Association’s free website owner privacy and personal safety report today.

Internet Privacy and Stalking

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Raising funds to fight breast cancer, a woman blogged about her charity activities. Using this online information, it appears that someone tracked her down and raped her.
Let’s face it…there are some sick and twisted people on the Internet. For example, the guy who murdered all those people at the Batman movie was recently trolling for dates online.
What’s the point?
Never ever give out information online that lets some stranger track you down. In your website legal documents, don’t use your home address as contact information.
Same issue when registering your website domain names. You wouldn’t believe how many website owners will register a domain name so that a simple WHOIS search reveals where they live.
If you haven’t read it yet, you can get a complimentary copy of my website owner privacy and personal safety report.

Do you make this Internet privacy mistake?

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According to the grapevine, Google is about to pay the government $16,000 for every day the company apparently violated privacy rights. While that’s peanuts for a company the size of Google, what are the typical costs of privacy screw-ups for website owners like you?

1. Lawsuits. If you get sued (or even threatened with a lawsuit), there’s your time, energy, and money that will be spent. Even if you “win,” you really lose because you’ll never get any of these back.

2. Government investigations. If a government agency comes knocking, it’s common to spend a boatload in Internet attorney fees trying to prove you did nothing wrong plus a bunch of time putting together documents showing you’re one of the decent people online.

3. Reputation. It’s hard to get back your reputation with prospects and clients after word leaks that you don’t respect privacy rights.

So what do you do to protect yourself? You keep your privacy policy and other website legal documents up-to-date and you honor your policies.

Do-Not-Track Web Browsers and Online Privacy

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Internet lawyer online privacyMore “fun” for you and your Internet lawyer. Three of the main Web browsers (IE Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome) are jumping ahead of the U.S. federal government by adding “do-not-track” options so that you can surf the Internet without having your browsing habits tracked.

Nice in concept but that won’t be enough for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) because of remaining privacy issues.

Here’s why…

The do-not-track functions depend upon those doing targeted online advertising actually cooperating with the browser features voluntarily. If it’s profitable to track surfing behavior and monetize the data through targeted advertising why would you stop doing it?

The FTC’s answer is heading in the direction of making it unprofitable by new regulations. When new regs are issued, have your Internet lawyer explain them to you.

Expect tracking without transparency and informed consent to become defined as a deceptive trade practice that the FTC will go after in court to stop.

How “tracking” is defined will determine how many Internet entrepreneurs will be affected. If your website host counts unique visitors using a program like AWStats, will that be considered tracking? Or will it require something more robust like Google’s DoubleClick Dart Tracking Cookie? What about rogue packet sniffing for data mining?

Whatever is covered, expect the new regs to require additional disclosures to your website visitors and clients.

Will keep top of this issue and write more about it as the FTC acts.

To your online success!

-Mike the Internet Lawyer