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Socially Aware Blog

The Law and Business of Social Media

A List of Lists

Posted in Uncategorized

Well, it’s that time of the year, when our news feeds are dominated by lists of predictions for the coming year. We thought it might be helpful to our readers to gather links to various technology and social media-related predictions for 2015. We’ll post additional links here over the coming weeks:

Technology & Social Media Law

The Top Ten Internet Law Developments of 2014

Five Media-Law Trends To Watch in 2015

What You Need to Know About the New Tech Laws For 2015

A UK Technology Lawyer’s Description of What To Expect From IT Law in 2015


Digital & Social Media Marketing

Corporate social media fails of 2014: big brands make big mistakes

Brands: Avoid These Social Media Mistakes in 2015

Top 3 Technology Trends Marketers Should Watch in 2015

The Top 7 Social Media Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2015

21 Digital Marketing Trends & Predictions for 2015

The Future of Social Media: How Will It Impact Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service?

2015 Mobile/Location-Based Marketing Predictions From 10 Experts

What’s on the Horizon for Mobile Marketing?

8 Bold Predictions for Digital Marketing in 2015

6 Predictions About the State of Digital Marketing in 2015

Information Technology

Top IT Predictions for 2015

The Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2015

Top 10 Technology Predictions for 2015



5 Predictions of How Apps Will Change in 2015

8 Predictions for Mobile App Development in 2015

10 Mobile Enterprise App Solutions Predictions for 2015



Data Driven Predictions for 2015

20 E-Commerce Trends and Predictions for 2015

Ecommerce Trends 2015: 19 Predictions From Top E-Commerce experts

Status Updates

Posted in Status Updates

Fake-out stakeout. For several months now, we’ve been covering the increasingly prevalent use of social media by law enforcement agencies conducting criminal investigations. In one such instance, the FBI sent a link to a fabricated news story to the MySpace page of a high-school-bombing-threat suspect to lure him into downloading malware that revealed his whereabouts. In another, the DEA set up a fake Facebook page in the name of a woman whom the agency was investigating as bit player in a federal drug investigation. All of the scenarios present a unique group of ethical and legal questions that are being debated in the media and in the U.S. court system. Now, a federal judge in New Jersey has sanctioned one such social media evidence gathering tactic: Denying a criminal defendant’s motion to suppress pictures from his private Instagram account, U.S. District Judge William Martini held that police officers did not need a search warrant when they accessed those pictures by friending the defendant using a fake Instagram account. The judge referenced a New York federal district court opinion holding that the government did not violate the Fourth Amendment when it accessed a criminal defendant’s Facebook profile through one of the defendant’s Facebook “friends,” a cooperating witness.

Goggle gaffes? With a market cap of more than $382 billion, incalculable influence over a variety of business sectors, and a name that earned a place in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006, Google is clearly on a roll as we enter the New Year. Yet, as Forbes contributor Gene Marks notes, the company has had its share of outright flops, and it invests an awful lot of money in products that no one wants to buy. For example, a “solution in search of a problem,” Google Glass has yet to get off the ground. And, because it would likely require giving the government more centralized control over the U.S. transportation system, the driverless car for which Google recently introduced a prototype is apparently years away from being a viable option. But there’s no chance of these seemingly profitless projects taking the tech giant down, according to Marks. Awash with cash from other profitable revenue streams, the company can afford to invest in dream projects that aren’t likely to bring in money anytime soon.

Porn again. Illinois became the most recent state to pass a law criminalizing “revenge porn,” sexually explicit photos publicly disseminated (most often by posting them to the Internet) without the subject’s consent, usually by a jilted lover seeking retribution, or by someone who has obtained the pictures by hacking into the victim’s smartphone or computer. The measure, signed into law on December 29, 2014, by Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, makes posting revenge porn a Class 4 felony punishable by one to three years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. Fourteen other states – including New York, Utah, Texas and California, which recently convicted a man for posting nude photos of his ex – have similar laws. In those states without revenge porn statutes, there are other potential avenues for combatting revenge porn, as we discussed in an early 2014 blog post.

Post Wisely

Posted in FDA Regulations

From our sister blog, MoFo Tech:

Two FDA Guidelines Help Life Sciences Companies Solve Social Media Conundrums

Social media presents new challenges for life sciences companies. Companies that post about their products on space-constrained social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook don’t have the luxury of a full page or a long voiceover listing risks or side effects. And it’s unclear how to respond to misleading information about products posted online by third parties. In June, the Food and Drug Administration produced two much-anticipated draft documents that provide some guidance in each case.

The “Twitter Guidance”

“Internet/Social Media Platforms with Character Space Limitations— Presenting Risk and Benefit Information for Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices” (found at http://1.usa.gov/1kGYdgK) specifies that a brand should, within the post:

  • Include the brand and established name, dosage form, and ingredient information
  • Accompany benefit with risk information
  • Provide a link to a page devoted “exclusively” to risk information.

If both benefit and risk information can’t be included in the limited space, the company should consider using a different platform, the FDA advises. “The Twitter Guidance provides a fictional example to show that it’s not impossible to produce an acceptable tweet. But it is very difficult,” says Erin M. Bosman, chair of the Product Liability Practice Group at Morrison & Foerster. Companies that go the Twitter route may want to focus on products with only a few risks or
risks that are easy to understand, she says.

Correcting third-party Misinformation

This guidance, called “Internet/Social Media Platforms: Correcting Independent Third-Party Misinformation About Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices,” can be found at http://1.usa.gov/1kHcfii.

“Companies can breathe a sigh of relief with this guidance because it says companies are not obliged to correct third-party information,” Bosman says. “This reduces the need to monitor and mine massive quantities of Internet data about their products.”

The FDA suggests guidelines for voluntary correction of third-party misinformation, such as posting the correction in the same area or forum where the misinformation is found, when possible. Bosman suggests that companies should have “a standard policy about the type of information to correct. For example, misinformation that presents serious health risks should be a higher priority than correcting more innocuous misinformation.” She also recommends formulating a standard response for correcting common misinformation in order to ensure accuracy and consistency.

Negotiating Cloud Contracts

Posted in Cloud Computing

The cloud computing market is evolving rapidly. New as a service (aaS) platforms are appearing and the dichotomy between public and private cloud domains has been fractured into many different shades of hybrid cloud alternatives. And while many of the key issues – privacy risk, data location, service commitment – remain the same, service providers’ commercial offerings are becoming more flexible.

Over the past 18 months, we have even started to see changes in the “take it or leave it” approach to cloud contracts. Negotiations of cloud contracts have started to occur. But at this stage in cloud computing’s evolution, even more so than for traditional ICT contracting, the key is to know what can be negotiated and how much.

Cloud Market

The global cloud computing market is reportedly worth approximately $157 billion in 2014, and is expected to reach $290 billion by 2018. The market is growing at an annual rate of almost 50%. North America continues to represent the largest share of the global cloud market with over 50% of the market, followed by the EMEA region with approximately 29%.

Software as a service (SaaS) is still the biggest sell, followed by infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS). The Big 3 aaS cloud offerings represent 90% of the global cloud market according to a recent survey.

Flexibility and cost savings are still the main drivers for customers selecting cloud services – while security and privacy remain the top concerns. Interestingly, some customers are starting to consider cloud offerings as a means of improving the security of their data, taking the view that leading cloud providers have more expertise in protecting data and are able to invest more heavily in evolving technologies.

As the cloud market continues to grow in volume terms, the diversity of the market offerings is also increasing.  There is more competition than ever before in most of the main cloud market segments, with well-publicized price cuts, more service offerings and many, if not most, software providers examining ways to move into service-based offerings. Traditional market leaders, such as Microsoft and IBM, experience year-on-year growth. Reputation and cost are the key factors in cloud vendor selection, followed by performance assurance related issues.

In general, most large cloud providers are showing a renewed focus on multinational clients and also want to move up the value chain and target larger institutional clients. Outsourcing arrangements now increasingly encompass a cloud computing element, and some cloud providers are prepared to offer managed services to mimic elements of so-called “traditional” outsourcing.

Genuine adoption by regulated entities, especially financial services institutions, is the next big target; although the take-up is not helped by the reticence of regulators in some key global markets (with the notable exception of the United States) to provide a road map to assist regulated entities’ engagement of the cloud model.  Nevertheless, reticence to adopt a multi-tenanted cloud solution in regulated sectors is being eroded by the availability of aaS models available through virtual private cloud services and dedicated servers.

Cloud Contracts

It remains axiomatic that contracts for cloud computing services are generally implemented on the provider’s terms. Even projecting forward at the current rate of evolution, it is hard to see that core principle changing.  However, contract terms are increasingly negotiable to some extent; although the degree of negotiability pales in comparison with the contracting model in traditional services-based outsourcing.

In our experience there continues to be a (resigned) acceptance from most customers of the providers’ terms, i.e., the terms are what they are, and there’s a general recognition that that is the place to start. After all, if a customer organization expects customization of services and a genuine negotiation of service terms, then maybe the cloud is not the right place to be considered as a solution for those specific services.

Nevertheless, we have experienced greater negotiability compared to 18 months ago, and we anticipate that trend continuing in the future. The contracting areas where we perceive the most scope for negotiation tend to be commercially oriented issues such as price, privacy and security, scope and service levels, and liability caps. Technical areas, such as the variability of service elements that depend on specific data center features, do not lend themselves to negotiation because the shared service nature of cloud facilities limits the ability of providers to agree on changes in those areas. These are areas where customers often show their naivety of how cloud computing works by asking for changes that directly contradict the commoditized nature of the service offering.  That said, some providers do not help themselves by justifying their refusal of almost every requested change based on the invariability of the technical solution, even when an issue is plainly commercial and not technical.

Among the key issues that recur in cloud contract negotiations are:

  • Customer control and visibility over subcontracting: there is a general reluctance of providers to allow approval of, or even to identify, subcontractors.  Often, that can be for very good reasons, especially in a public cloud situation;
  • The limitation of the provider’s ability to change the nature of the services provided. Again, there may be very valid reasons for this depending on the nature of the services, but, typically, the negotiation ought to focus on the commercial implications of such changes rather than the basic right itself;
  • Privacy and data security commitments by the provider;
  • Rights of the provider to suspend services under circumstances such as non-payment or violation of an acceptable use policy;
  • Limitation of liability;
  • Termination assistance provisions allowing the customer to extend service for a period after termination or expiration to allow migration to the replacement solution; and
  • The stretching of some common contracting provisions into some pretty unfamiliar directions. One motto to bear in mind when reviewing cloud terms is “never assume that you know what’s in a provision based on its heading.” Force majeure provisions are a good example. You may have thought that it would be hard to reinvent force majeure, but in some cloud instances force majeure seems to be elastic-sided enough to capture “changes in the taxation basis of services delivered via the Internet” as a force majeure event.

Another area where some providers have not helped their industry’s cause is in the proliferation of complex, multi-document contract structures which are often poorly updated and oddly worded. Customers need to wade through the many pieces of paper and URL links, and with a lack of consistency among the documents frustration mounts and patience wears thin. These multi-layered contract structures are unwieldy and often, when quizzed, even the providers’ representatives cannot navigate their way around them. It would be beneficial if the cloud industry generally – and some notable large cloud providers specifically – were to address this contracting approach over the next couple of years.

Privacy and Security

MoFo’s Global Privacy Group has already written extensively about the privacy implications of moving data to the cloud. The conjoined issues of privacy and security remain center stage in most cloud contract negotiations. The key issues generally are who is responsible for data security and how obligations should be allocated between service provider and customer. Importantly, there may be a different analysis between different types of cloud services, e.g., between IaaS and SaaS for example. But it is worth understanding the exact commercial and legal implications of a provider that commits only to be responsible for the “security of our network” and expects its customer to be responsible for the “security of its data.”

Typically, of course, providers are more willing to take responsibility for the integrity of their networks, while attempting to steer clear of obligations in relation to data. However, some service providers now accept that a failure to improve their privacy offerings may compromise future growth in certain markets and be a competitive disadvantage.

So, for example, there is an increased willingness to adopt the EU model clauses for data transfer, and most of the large cloud providers are reacting to commercial pressures from Europe-based clients to offer services from ring-fenced European data centers. Despite this, there is still a lack of appreciation among many customers of the difference between commitments in relation to data “at rest” (i.e., where the data are stored) and where data can be accessed from.


In general, most cloud contracts are still relatively light in terms of service level commitments, with availability being the main measurement metric. There is no sign yet of widespread (or, indeed, early stage) acceptance of the EU’s standardized SLA suggestions.

In terms of remedies for service failure, the concept of providing credit via further services or contract extension is still prevalent despite the illogicality (from a customer perspective) of accepting more of the same as a service remedy.


The old maxim “Be careful what you wish for” applies to the cloud market at this stage of development. Many commercial users of cloud services have chafed at the “take it or leave it” approach to cloud contracts. But, now that some degree of negotiation is becoming possible in some areas of the cloud market, it is clear that users need to understand more than ever what can realistically be negotiated.

At the same time, users need to clearly distinguish their reasons for adopting cloud solutions in the first place and understand the specific sector of the market that they are seeking to access. If users perceive the risks to be so great that contract negotiation seems essential before putting services in the cloud, it is possible that they need to consider whether the services that they have in mind properly belong there in the first place.

In general, customers need to approach cloud computing transactions with realistic expectations. It is unrealistic to expect to re-negotiate a provider’s cloud contract terms materially on a project with a relatively low cost/value.  Providers are either technically constricted or simply commercially unwilling to devote expensive commercial management time or legal resources to negotiate the terms of a project with a relatively low margin or revenue generation.



What Are the Rules of the Advergame in the UK?

Posted in Online Promotions

Advergames are online video games that are created in order to promote a brand, product or organization by immersing a marketing message within the game. They are typically accessed via an organization’s website or app, or via a social media platform. Advergames are not particularly new. The concept of advertising via gaming has been around since the 1980s and the term advergame was included in Wired magazine’s Jargon Watch column back in 2001. In the early days of the advergame, though, the medium was generally embraced by brands that targeted the youth market.  These days, the growth of tablets, smartphones and mobile apps, as well as the rise in popularity of online gaming, has led to the increased adoption of advergames by a wide variety of organizations, including charities, financial services firms, car manufacturers, toy makers and government agencies.

Given the increased challenges of traditional advertising, advergames are considered a great way to help increase brand awareness and engagement—whether an organization is promoting a new product, educating, trying to grow its market, carrying out market research, or reaching out to prospective recruits. A key benefit of advergames is that users interact with a brand for far longer than they would with traditional forms of advertising. The best advergames can go viral and provide worldwide exposure and a shelf-life much longer than that of a traditional advert. For example, in 2013 Chipotle, the Mexican fast food chain, published a Scarecrow advergame that was downloaded 250,000 times within four days of its release.

In this post, we will consider some of the legal issues that organizations operating in the UK will need to consider when employing advergames as a marketing tool.

Advertising Rules

The first issue that an organization will need to consider is compliance with applicable advertising rules, as advergames are very likely to be regarded as advertising. That’s certainly the case in the UK.

In May 2012, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), the UK’s independent regulator of advertising, published guidance on the use of advergames. In the guidance, the ASA made clear that advergames in paid-for space online are covered by the relevant rules of the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (the CAP Code). In addition, advergames that are made available on an organization’s website or app or via a social media platform under the organization’s control, and that are directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods, services, opportunities or gifts, must comply with the CAP Code.

Particular issues arise when advergames are considered appealing to children. The CAP Code includes an overarching principle that marketers must be careful when addressing children in marketing, and must bear in mind that children’s understanding of, and reaction to, marketing communications will be affected by their age and experience, and the context in which the message is delivered. The CAP Code also requires that advertisements be obviously identifiable as such. When deciding whether an advergame complies with this rule, the ASA will consider the context in which the advergame is made available; any references to the product, brand or organisation in or around the game; and the target audience.

To date, many of the complaints made to ASA about advergames concern their use by food manufacturers to promote foods perceived to be unhealthy. Under Rule 15.11 of the CAP Code, advertisements must not condone or encourage poor nutritional habits or an unhealthy lifestyle in children. In addition, Rule 15.15 states that, in general, food advertisements that are targeted directly at pre-school or primary school children must not include licensed characters or celebrities popular with children.

By way of example, in 2012, the ASA considered a Krave cereal advergame made available to Facebook users who had, via their Facebook profile information, confirmed themselves to be aged 16 or over.  The advergame featured a character, the Krave Krusader, which players controlled in order to collect chocolate and score points. The complainant considered that the advergame encouraged poor nutritional habits and an unhealthy lifestyle in children in breach of the CAP Code. However, the ASA rejected the complaint, precisely because the advergame was targeted at Facebook users over the age of 16.

In the same year, the ASA considered advergames published on the website of a confectionary manufacturer, www.swizzels-matlow.com. It held that a “Cola Capers” game that was (i) relatively long in duration, (ii) aimed at young children, and (iii) condoned eating a large number of sweets while hiding such consumption from the user’s parents irresponsibly encouraged poor nutritional habits and an unhealthy lifestyle in children. In addition, it held that certain games involving the character Scooby Doo were aimed at primary-school children and therefore in breach of the CAP Code.

It only takes one complaint for the ASA to investigate an advergame, and if the ASA upholds the complaint, the offending advertisement is very likely to be banned. As the ASA is a non-statutory body it does not have the power to fine advertisers or take advertisers to court.

However, some parties want more action. In March 2014, the UK’s Local Government Association (LGA), which represents almost 400 councils in England and Wales, called for pop-up health warnings to accompany “addictive” advergames used by food firms “targeted at children.” The ASA responded to this call by making reference to its recent bans and stating that it would not hesitate to ban any other advergames that breached the CAP Code. However, in May 2014, the University of Bath’s Institute for Policy Research issued a policy brief, Advergames: It’s not child’s play, looking at the use by food firms of advergames to promote high-salt, high-sugar and high-fat food and drink products. The brief concluded that children up to the age of 15 do not recognize that advergames are advertising, and called for various actions, including an obligatory, clear, uniform labelling system for all children’s advergames. So, as you can see, this issue is not going away.

Other Issues

It’s not just a question of advertising rules. Some of the other key issues advertisers will need to consider when launching an advergame include:

  • Terms of use for the advergame
  • Privacy and data protection laws
  • Consumer protection rules
  • Industry regulations affecting advertisements and promotions
  • App store rules and restrictions
  • Prize promotion rules
  • Intellectual property rights in the advergame
  • Ownership of data
  • Contracts with third-party providers (e.g., the game developer)


Advergames are a fun, interactive marketing tool. However, it’s important to comply with all applicable rules to make sure that your advergame doesn’t give you publicity for all of the wrong reasons.



Status Updates

Posted in Status Updates

Facebook fit. It’s been said that a species’ evolutionary success depends more on its adaptability than any other trait. That apparently holds true for a social media platform’s staying power, too. Facebook continues to flourish despite two hugely disruptive developments that, at least in theory, should have had a negative impact on its standing in the social media landscape: the proliferation of other social media platforms, and web surfers’ sudden and dramatic shift from desktop computers to mobile devices (and the resulting decrease in the value of cookies for tracking web surfers). According to Forbes, a key to the social media giant’s resilience may be Facebook Login. Rolled out in 2008 as Facebook Connect, Facebook Login allows its users to sign onto apps and other web sites by using their Facebook information, thereby eliminating a Facebook user’s need to remember or re-enter user names and passwords. The fact that Login allows advertisers to track Facebook users across platforms: (1) eliminates the need for cookies; and (2) means that Facebook users’ information remains valuable to advertisers whether or not the users spend their digital hours on Facebook itself. And, according to a recent report, adoption of Login by major websites continues to increase, further bolstering Facebook’s ability to weather future disruptions in the social media industry.

All’s a-twitter. Having been retweeted more than 3.3 million times—more than any other tweet—Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie was designated “The Golden Tweet” by Twitter’s chief communications officer in his year-end roundup of the social media platform’s 2014 highlights. The most popular hashtags on Twitter this year included #BringBackOurGirls, in response to the mass kidnapping of young females in Nigeria, and #BlackLivesMatter, regarding the Ferguson protests. The deaths of Maya Angelou, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams were also the subject of a significant number of tweets in 2014.

Are we less social? Social media may have peaked in the United States, a survey by the British telecom regulator Ofcom shows. Fifty-four percent of the 1,000 U.S. adults who participated in the survey reported visiting a social network at least once a week, compared to the 56% who reported having done so in 2013. That’s hardly enough to warrant sounding the U.S. social media death knell, however, especially when you consider that—according the analytics company comScore—the total U.S. Internet population increased 10.6% from 225.3 million to 249.4 million last year. The decline in weekly social media use among the British from 2013 to 2014 was much more significant, according to Ofcom; the number of UK residents making weekly network visits dropped from 65% to 56% over that period. For what it’s worth, 89% of the team here at Socially Aware is skeptical.

Hot Off the Press: The December Issue of Our Socially Aware Newsletter Is Now Available

Posted in Copyright, Infographic, Internet of Things, Litigation, Privacy, Terms of Use

The latest issue of our Socially Aware newsletter is now available here.

In this issue of Socially Aware, our Burton Award-winning guide to the law and business of social media, we look at several topics surrounding the proverbial online thumbs up, including the emerging legal status of Facebook likes and similar social media constructs; Facebook’s recent prohibition of the popular business practice of offering discounts, exclusive content and other incentives in exchange for liking a company’s Facebook page; and Facebook’s crackdown on the practice of buying phony likes. We realize though that likes aren’t everything, so we also explore the legal framework for moving personal data to the cloud; we examine clickwraps vs. browsewraps in relation to the implementation and enforcement of online terms of use; we discuss the new California privacy law revisions impacting website and mobile app operators directing their services to minors; we take a look at the new infringement exceptions in the United Kingdom; and we highlight a recent decision in the UK granting a website-blocking order against certain ISPs in a case involving counterfeit goods.

All this—plus an infographic about—what else?—Facebook likes.

Read our newsletter.

Status Updates

Posted in Status Updates

An undercover app. Internet innovators have for some time been trying to cash in on the public’s mounting desire for anonymous messaging platforms, with varied success. As we recently noted, at least 11 students at colleges around the country have been tracked down and arrested for threatening violence on the purportedly anonymous messaging app Yik Yak. Now, the entrepreneur behind OneOne – the latest app to hit the anonymous messaging market – claims that his product will succeed where Yik Yak’s has apparently failed. That’s because, OneOne founder Kevin Abosch says, while other so-called anonymous messaging apps rely on strong encryption to protect users’ data, OneOne actually ensures that messages sent using the app are not traceable back to the message sender’s or receiver’s devices. OneOne users aren’t required to establish OneOne accounts, and can begin exchanges by sending a recipient a link. The thread at the link can be deleted at any time, and automatically disappears after 24 hours. Abosch expects that OneOne will be popular among professionals who typically discuss sensitive information.

App trapped. Instant messages are on their way to becoming the modern-day equivalent of lipstick on a collar, at least in Italy. According to the Italian Association of Matrimonial Lawyers, nearly one-half of all divorce proceedings in Italy involve evidence found in messages sent using Facebook’s recently acquired messaging service, WhatsApp. While Italian men aren’t necessarily more likely to be unfaithful than Italian women, they are more likely to unwittingly disclose their infidelity via WhatsApp messages. That’s because men are more likely than women to save photos and messages so they can revisit them, the association’s president says. Maybe these folks should have used OneOne?

A like from Liam. The marketing team at 20th Century Fox is using an unconventional social media platform to promote actor Liam Neeson’s new flick, Taken 3: the business-oriented networking site LinkedIn. Capitalizing on some of the more famous lines that Neeson’s Bryan Mills character spoke in the first Taken movie – “[W]hat I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you” – the film studio is conducting a contest. The prize: Neeson, in character as Bryan Mills, will endorse one fortunate fan’s particular set of skills as described on LinkedIn.

Status Updates

Posted in Status Updates

Instagrowth. Instagram’s relationship with Facebook is turning out to be mutually beneficial. Since Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, the photo sharing platform has passed the 300-million-user mark, surpassing Twitter’s 284 million active-user base. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom attributes his social media company’s growth to its decision to translate its app into more languages—there are now 210 million Instagram users outside the United States—and Instagram’s acquisition by Facebook, whose growth team’s efforts have supplemented the work done by Instagram’s own small team dedicated to increasing the social platform’s popularity. For its part, Instagram has grown into an incredibly valuable asset—according to some estimates, its 300 million users translate into a valuation of approximately $12 billion—as well as a means of keeping its parent company in touch with younger users, who have been abandoning Facebook in droves in favor of newer messaging apps and social media platforms.

Road rules. These days, recorders on automobiles track everything from a driver’s location to her braking habits and seatbelt use. In the interest of maintaining automobile consumers’ trust, two of the auto industry’s biggest trade groups have agreed on a set of principles specifying how automakers may use, store, and protect the information their products collect about the people who drive them. The automakers’ agreement, which is set to take effect in January 2016,  calls for the companies to adopt policies for their cars that are similar to the privacy policies typically found on websites. While the privacy principles don’t prescribe exactly what auto manufactures may do with drivers’ data—they require only that the information be used for “legitimate business purposes”—the guidelines do specify that manufacturers will not disclose customer location intelligence to law enforcement without a warrant. The manufacturers themselves have categorized the  guidelines as minimum requirements that auto makers will build upon as they compete to stay in automobile buyers’ good graces.

A digital chaperone? Facebook is developing an algorithm that will run interference between users and their networks when it identifies material in a post that has the potential to compromise the poster’s public image or reputation. Using “deep learning,” a type of artificial intelligence, the system will notify Facebook users when they are about to post something that will portray them in a less-than-optimal light (a drunken selfie, for example) or when other users post unauthorized photos of them. Since such a system will require technology with human-level intelligence, it will likely take a long time to become a reality.

Status Updates

Posted in Status Updates

Block party. Twitter has revamped its anti-harassment policies to make it easier to report harassment on the network or to block another account. The change follows recent highly-publicized instances of “Twitter harassment,” such as the Gamergate controversy, in which certain prominent women in the videogame industry reportedly became targets of harassing tweets. Twitter users will now be able to flag a wide variety of problems, including harassment, impersonation, and threats of self-harm or suicide, even if directed at someone else. Twitter has also changed how blocked accounts work to make it easier to avoid abusive users. While these steps may not keep harassment off the network entirely, they seem to be a step in the right direction.

See you on the dark side. The term “dark social” refers to the social sharing of content outside of social media platforms in such a way that it cannot be measured by Web analytics programs – for example, sending of a link via online chat or email. Studies have shown that between 60 percent and 70 percent of all sharing is “dark,” but when people self-report on their sharing habits, the dark social percentages are much lower. In a recent study, only 32 percent of consumers reported that they share through dark channels. Perhaps sending links in email or SMS chat is so commonplace that people aren’t even aware that they’re doing it. In any event, online marketers are keenly interested in strategies to harness this dark sharing.

Facebook ’em, Danno. A Houston-area man, Jeff Turner, was expecting a package from FedEx—a Houston Rockets sweater for his son—and never received it. Luckily, he had surveillance video from his front door area that showed someone taking the sweater. Who did it? Enter Facebook. Turner put the surveillance footage on his Facebook page, and another Facebook user recognized the thief. The miscreant, a local teenager, was found mowing the lawn at a nearby house and the sweater was recovered. Yet more proof that you can’t escape the long arm of social media!