Skip to main content


Hushmail – Email Privacy and the Government

By Internet Lawyer

If you think that your Hushmail emails are secure, think again. Despite the PGP encryption, Hushmail, a Canadian company, is apparently cooperating with U.S. law enforcement authorities who want to look at emails.

This raises many interesting legal issues but reinforces the fact that you should never put in email anything that you don’t want third parties to read. Assume the worst will happen. “Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead,” quipped Benjamin Franklin. Consider this when writing your next e-mail. Even if the recipient doesn’t share what you wrote with someone else (and chances are that he will), your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or email provider may be gutting your privacy rights behind your back by giving copies to the government or even someone interested in suing you.

What’s the lesson for your online business?

If you make representations about your products or services, you better stand by those representations. And if your website’s privacy policy states X is true, you should make sure that it is in fact true.

As for Hushmail, it will be interesting to see if the company gets sued.

Hat tip to Iaian Thomson at ITNews for this email privacy story.

Be sure to check out the podcast for this post.

Positive Thinking Versus Decisive Action

By Internet Lawyer

Too many unsuccessful entrepreneurs sit around waiting for positive thinking to bring them wealth and riches. Self-help gurus, ranging from Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” book to “The Secret” video reinforce the myth that universal abundance can be tapped by sitting on your butt and thinking positive thoughts.

Decisive action is the missing element. Positive thoughts by themselves do nothing.

For an excellent take on this issue, I give credit to the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Every positive thinker who is spinning his wheels should be required to watch this video repeatedly until he understands it…then gets up and takes action.

Second Life and the Virtual Bed Lawsuit

By Internet Lawyer

Second Life is being used with mixed degrees of success for marketing by both big box retailers and small entrepreneurs. In the latter category, is the creator of a “virtual bed.” There’s now an infringement lawsuit based on the bed being stolen. We’re talking about the theft of a “bed” that exists only in a fantasy world.

How does this apply to you? Just a reminder that finding something you like on the Web (such as a photo, banner, or audio), doesn’t mean that you’ve got the legal right to use it simply because you can right-click and save a copy to your hard drive.

Something else to consider. There are now college courses being taught in Second Life, that is, the students are meeting up in the virtual world as part of their classes. If you’re targeting this demographic with your products or services, that’s something to consider.

Google Slapped by Consumer Protection Group

By Internet Lawyer

An Australian consumer protection group has sued Google over alleged deceptive advertising practices. There’s two key parts to this suit that could affect the way you do business.

First, Google has been accused of letting businesses pay for sponsored links that use trademarked words or phrases owned by competitors. Here’s an example of how that would work. Let’s say that I sell MP3 players. If I bought ads on Google to sell my MP3 players and used the keywords “iPod,” “Apple,” and “iTunes,” I’d be misleading people who would be clicking on my ads thinking that they were actually going to see an Apple iPod instead of my MP3 player.

Secondly, the consumer group claims that Google’s search results are deceptive because search engine users can’t really distinguish between organic (unpaid) search engine results and advertisements such as AdWords on the same page.

What are the lessons to take from this?

Black hat or gray hat marketing techniques simply aren’t worth it in the long run when anyone with an axe to grind and hungry trial lawyer is willing to shake you down with a lawsuit or two.

Using a competitor’s trademarked names or phrases to mislead consumers in order to drive traffic to your website isn’t a good idea.

Advertorials and the like are still okay to use in marketing but beware of anything that will allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or another government agency to claim that you are misleading the public by claiming to provide objective information that in fact is advertising. “Protecting the public” can cost you.

You and I discussed this back in January when we talked about the FTC’s crackdown on buzz marketing.