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FMG Law Blog Line

Posts Tagged ‘privacy’

FTC Guidance for Online Protection for Children

Posted on: May 14th, 2013

By: Matt Foree

A byproduct of widespread use of the internet is its inevitable use by young children. Today, children have access to the internet through computers, smartphones and countless other electronic devices. To protect the privacy of children online, Congress enacted the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”), which provides rules for operators of commercial websites and online services directed to or knowingly used by children under 13. COPPA required the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) to issue and enforce regulations concerning children’s online privacy. The FTC’s original COPPA Rule became effective on April 21, 2000.

Significantly, the FTC issued new, stricter rules under COPPA on December 19, 2012, the first time the rules have been amended since COPPA was enacted in 1998. (See video of Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV’s remarks regarding the amendment and the modernization of COPPA here.) Obviously, much of the relevant technology has evolved since COPPA was enacted. The new rules go into effect on July 1, 2013. The new rules can be found here. on the FTC’s website.

The stricter rules under COPPA came shortly after the FTC issued a report entitled “Mobile Apps For Kids: Disclosures Still Not Making the Grade” on the state of mobile app privacy protections for children in December 2012. This report characterized the results of its recent survey on mobile apps as “disappointing,” and noted that the mobile app industry “appears to have made little or no progress in improving its disclosures” since the FTC’s previous report.

Generally, COPPA applies to operators of commercial websites and online services, such as mobile apps, directed to children under 13 that collect, use, or disclose personal information from children, and operators of general audience websites or online services with actual knowledge that they are collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from children under 13. COPPA also applies to websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information directly from users of another website or online service directed to children. “Personal information” includes, among other things, first and last name, a home or other physical address, a screen or user name, a telephone number, certain geolocation information, a social security number, and a photograph, video, or audio file that includes a child’s image or voice.

The rules provide that operators covered by COPPA must, among other things, post a clear and comprehensive policy describing their information practices for personal information collected online from children, provide direct notice to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent, with some exceptions, before collecting personal information online from children, and give parents access to their child’s personal information to review and/or have the information deleted.

The FTC has recently released a document providing further COPPA guidance.  Entitled “Complying with COPPA:  Frequently Asked Questions, a Guide for Business and Parents and Small Entity Compliance Guide” (the FAQ), this compliance document sets forth 92 frequently asked questions related to COPPA.  As stated in the document, the “primary goal of COPPA is to place parents in control over what information is collected from their young children online.”  The FAQ provides specific guidance about obligations regarding use or disclosure of previously collected information that will be deemed personal information once the amended rule goes into effect on July 1, as well as an explanation of the differences between the new and old COPPA rules.

The new COPPA rules provide pitfalls for covered operators of commercial websites and online services. Covered businesses should review COPPA and the FTC guidance to ensure compliance with COPPA, which authorizes civil penalties of up to $16,000 per violation. COPPA gives states and certain federal agencies authority to enforce compliance.

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Police Dog Sniffs Pass the Fourth Amendment “Smell Test”

Posted on: November 2nd, 2012

By: Brian Dempsey

This past week, the United States Supreme Court heard two cases which are expected to clarify the Fourth Amendment limitations on police officers’ use of drug-sniffing dogs.

In the first case, Florida v. Jardines, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether a dog sniff at the front door of a suspected marijuana grow house by a trained narcotics detection dog is a search requiring probable cause and a warrant.  In the second case, Florida v. Harris, the issue is whether an “alert” by a well-trained detection dog establishes probable cause for the search of the interior of a vehicle for further evidence of illegal drugs.

In some general law enforcement contexts, a canine drug sniff has been held not to be a search which requires Fourth Amendment scrutiny.  In Jardines, however, the Court will – for the first time – consider whether the Fourth Amendment “reasonableness” standard applies when the search is conducted outside a private home.  This is an important factor in light of the Court’s recognition in prior cases that the area immediately outside a home is subject to the same Fourth Amendment privacy protections which apply to the interior of the residence.  In contrast, the Court has recognized a lesser degree of privacy expectations in a vehicle which is operated on public roads, as was the case in Harris.

The Court’s upcoming opinions in these cases will provide welcome guidance regarding the constitutional limitations of searches conducted by narcotics detection dogs.  In the meantime, a plain-language discussion of the issues can be found here.

For more commentary, analysis, and links to the oral argument transcripts and briefs in both cases, see these websites:

SCOTUS Blog – Florida v. Jardines

SCOTUS Blog – Florida v. Harris

ABA Journal – “Chemerinsky: The Fourth Amendment Goes to the Dogs”

The Volokh Conspiracy – “A Few Thoughts the Dog Sniff Cases: Florida v. Jardines and Florida v. Harris” 

 

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Posted on: October 15th, 2012

By: Dave Cole

You may already know that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but did you know that it also is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month?  In his proclamation of this as Cybersecurity Awareness Month, President Obama explained that, although our country benefits immensely from the Internet, increased connectivity brings increased risk of theft, fraud, and abuse.  This is true for businesses and consumers alike.

To help educate people about cyber threats, the Department of Homeland Security is leading the Stop.Think.Connect. campaign.  Stop.Think.Connect. is a national campaign to help people understand cyber threats and how to protect their online privacy.  There also are resources designed specifically for government and businesses, such as the “Small Business Tip Card,” which gives statistics on cyber threats affecting small businesses (did you know 40 percent of all cyber-attacks target businesses with fewer than 500 employees?) and helpful tips for preventing cyber-attacks and resources if your organization is attacked.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a good opportunity for organizations to review their cybersecurity framework.  If you have questions or need help improving your program or policies, please contact one of our attorneys.

California Becomes Third State to Limit Access to Employees’ Social Media Accounts

Posted on: October 1st, 2012

By: David Cole

On Thursday, Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law that significantly limits when California employers may ask employees and job applicants for social media information.  Under the new law, an employer cannot require or request an employee or job applicant to disclose his username or password, access a social media account in front of the employer, or share any social media content with the employer.  However, there is an exception that allows an employer to ask an employee to divulge social media that is reasonably believed to be relevant to an investigation of allegations of employee misconduct or employee violation of applicable laws and regulations, provided that the social media is used solely for purposes of that investigation or a related proceeding.  The new law takes effect January 1, 2013.

With this new law, California joins Maryland and Illinois as the first states to have laws restricting employer access to employees’ social media accounts.  Fittingly, Governor Brown announced the new law via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and MySpace, saying that this law, and a companion law that establishes a similar privacy policy for postsecondary education students, will “protect Californians from unwarranted invasions of their social media accounts.”