Late last year the Federal Trade Commission issued enforcement guidance on “native advertising” — ads that purposely are formatted to appear as noncommercial and are integrated into surrounding editorial content. The agency’s guidance took two parts: an Enforcement Policy Statement on deceptively formatted ads, and a Guide for Business on native advertising. These long-awaited guidance documents follow on the FTC’s December 2013 “Blurred Lines” workshop on native advertising. Importantly, the FTC notes that its policy statement does not apply just to advertisers but also to other parties that help create the content: ad agencies, ad networks and potentially, publishers.
On December 30, 2015, the Pew Research Center released a report on the results of a recent survey that asked 461 Americans about their feelings toward sharing personal information with companies. The survey found that a “significant minority” of American adults have felt “confused over information provided in company privacy policies, discouraged by the amount of effort needed to understand the implications of sharing their data, and impatient because they wanted to learn more about the information-sharing process but felt they needed to make a decision right away.” Continue Reading Pew Research Center Issues Report on Attitudes Toward Sharing Personal Information with Private Sector
On December 17, 2015, the FTC announced a pair of COPPA settlements against operators of child-directed mobile apps available for download in the major app stores. These cases are the FTC’s first COPPA actions involving the collection of persistent identifiers, and no other personal information, from children since the FTC’s updated COPPA Rule went into effect in 2013. The FTC levied civil penalties, totaling $360,000, in both cases.
Hunton & Williams welcomes Phyllis H. Marcus as counsel to the firm’s privacy and competition teams. Phyllis joins the firm from the Federal Trade Commission, where she held a number of leadership positions, most recently as Chief of Staff of the Division of Advertising Practices. Phyllis led the FTC’s children’s online privacy program, including bringing a number of enforcement actions and overhauling the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) Rule. She offers the privacy team a keen understanding of the complexities of the revised regulations, as well as broader issues relating to student privacy, mobile applications and the Internet of Things.
On October 2, 2015, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced that her office settled a lawsuit against home design website, Houzz Inc. (“Houzz”). Houzz was charged with secretly recording incoming and outgoing telephone calls for training and quality assurance purposes without notifying its customers, employees or call recipients, in violation of California eavesdropping and wiretapping laws. As part of the settlement, the Attorney General required Houzz to destroy the recordings, pay a fine of $175,000 and hire a Chief Privacy Officer to supervise its compliance with privacy laws and conduct privacy risk evaluations to assess Houzz’s privacy practices. This is the first time that the Attorney General has required the hiring of a Chief Privacy Officer as part of a settlement.
On September 25, 2015, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (the “ICO”) issued a fine of £200,000 (approximately $303,000) to Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd. (“HELM”) for making a large number of automated marketing calls in violation of the UK’s direct marketing laws. This is the largest fine that the ICO has issued to date in connection with automated marketing calls.
On September 2, 2015, the Information Commissioner’s Office (the “ICO”) announced an investigation into the data sharing practices of charities in the United Kingdom. The announcement follows the publication of an article in a UK newspaper highlighting the plight of Samuel Rae, an elderly man suffering from dementia. In 1994, Rae completed a survey, which resulted in a charity collecting his personal data. The charity, in turn, allegedly shared his contact details with other charities, data brokers and third parties. Over the years, some of those charities and third parties are reported to have sent Rae hundreds of unwanted items of mail, requesting donations and, in some cases, attempting to defraud him. The legal basis on which Rae’s details were shared remains unclear, although the ICO has noted that the distribution may have resulted from a simple failure to tick an “opt-out” box on the survey.
On July 10, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) released a Declaratory Ruling and Order that provides guidance with respect to several sections of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). The Declaratory Ruling and Order responds to 21 separate requests from industry, government and others seeking clarifications regarding the TCPA and related FCC rules.
On June 30, 2015, the French Data Protection Authority (the “CNIL”) summarized the results of the cookie inspections it conducted at the end of 2014.
On May 7, 2015, the Digital Advertising Alliance (“DAA”) announced that, as of September 1, 2015, the Council of Better Business Bureaus and the Direct Marketing Association will begin to enforce the DAA Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising and the Multi-Site Data Principles (collectively, the “Self-Regulatory Principles”) in the mobile environment.