Privacy continued and the FTC

We’ll start today by reviewing the distinction between privacy and obscurity. Facebook’s new Privacy Basics tool provides a great example to examine the types of control we’re used to. But what does that really mean when Facebook made $2.8 billion from users’ personal information in Q2 2014 (that’s $5.79 per American and Canadian user)?

Facebook was also the medium used in a First Amendment case argued before the Supreme Court this morning. Anthony Elonis of Pennsylvania said he was just venting when he posted violent rap lyrics about killing his wife, who filed a restraining order. The legal standard in determining a true threat is whether a reasonable person would interpret the statement as an intent to cause harm. Elonis argues that he didn’t intend to harm his wife, so he shouldn’t be prosecuted. SCOTUSblog has a round-up of coverage and analysis on this case.

The Federal Trade Commission

The FTC exists “to prevent business practices that are anticompetitive or deceptive or unfair to consumers,” so advertising falls under its purview. The commission’s online advertising and marketing page offers a variety of documents to help communicators determine whether their messages meet guidelines. The document “.com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising” is the most comprehensive of the options there. It’s important for you to know that:

  • The FTC always prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices.
  • Advertisers should always include limitations on an offer with the announcement, not as an attachment to it.
  • Disclosures must be “clear and conspicuous.” This was the problem with the Cole Haan #WanderingSole campaign. The advertiser’s responsibilities are extensive, including a recommendation to avoid making users scroll to see a disclosure and instruction to “keep abreast of empirical research about where consumers do and do not look on a screen.”

There is no reading assignment for Wednesday. Seven students (Laura, Carolyn, Margo, Tim, Kinsey, Victoria, and Christina) will report back about the most interesting or useful thing we’ve learned in this class.


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