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Status Updates

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School discipline. The California legislature has passed a law that, if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (or not vetoed by him before the end of September), would significantly expand privacy protections for students from kindergarten through high school. In particular, among other things, the law would limit education technology companies used by K-12 schools from… Continue Reading

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Disappearing ink. Facebook is testing, for a small group of users, a feature that will permit a user to schedule a post for automatic deletion after a specified period of time. It seems that the period can range from an hour to seven days, according to people who have seen it. It is worth noting,… Continue Reading

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In-tweet purchases. Twitter is testing the ability for its users to make purchases directly from tweets. The popular social network is working with a number of sellers, nonprofits and artists—as well as a small handful of social shopping and e-commerce platforms—to test “in-tweet purchases,” which will enable users to hit the “Buy” button straight from… Continue Reading

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Lawsuit panned by Court. The popular ratings app Yelp has been cleared by a federal appeals court of allegations in a class action lawsuit that the company extorted advertising dollars from businesses by threatening to remove positive user reviews or to highlight negative ones. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, affirming a… Continue Reading

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We can work it out. Actress Katherine Heigl and the Duane Reade chain of drugstores have settled a $6 million federal suit filed by Heigl this past April in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The suit centered on Duane Reade’s March 2014 tweet, “Love a quick #DuaneReade run? Even… Continue Reading

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Blind spots. Self-driving cars are an excellent example of innovation, and the ones with Google technology have already traveled more than 700,000 miles. But what if a self-driving car doesn’t “see” a new traffic light or a previously nonexistent traffic sign? This could result in traffic citations, or worse. But Google says it’s taking steps… Continue Reading

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What’s not to like? The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that an employee’s Facebook “like” approving of another employee’s statements about their employer may constitute “concerted activity” under federal labor law. Two employees—a waitress and a cook—had been fired by a sports bar in Connecticut for complaining about the employer on Facebook, but the… Continue Reading

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Breaking the ice. No one expected that people dumping buckets of ice water over their heads for charity would become the viral phenomenon that it has. One key technical secret to the success of the “ice bucket challenge” may have been Facebook’s adoption of “autoplay” videos. Autoplay videos, which are muted by default, attract attention… Continue Reading

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Death in the digital age. When someone dies, his or her heirs or executor will have broad rights to access the deceased person’s letters, documents and other physical assets. Delaware has just become the first state to enact legislation giving heirs and executors the same rights to access a decedent’s digital assets – including his or… Continue Reading

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Beyond wearables. Wearable Internet devices like Google Glass have made an impact. Could “nearables” be the next new thing? That’s the name that some people are giving to sensors or “beacons” attached to ordinary objects or even to pets. Could a sticker attached to your dog track how active it has been and where it… Continue Reading

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Reality test. Facebook has begun to test a new feature that marks as “satire” material from satirical or comedic websites that appears in the guise of “fake news.” Some users, evidently unable to tell reality from clever fiction, requested that the social network tag these posts in this way. Got to be a morning after. … Continue Reading

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Better shop around. In connection with a new staff report, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) examined 121 popular apps used to comparison shop, find online deals and pay with mobile devices; the FTC concluded that many of these apps failed, prior to download, to disclose important information to users, such as how the apps deal… Continue Reading

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Ahead of the law? In Hidalgo County, Texas, a former sheriff has been sued civilly over allegedly illegal campaign contributions. (He was also criminally convicted of money laundering.) At a civil deposition in the case, a lawyer for the plaintiff attempted to send live tweets from the deposition room. The judge ordered that the live… Continue Reading

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’Sup? We’ve commented previously about the new social networking app Yo, which transmits only that brief, eponymous syllable to a user’s friends. Yo’s founders may have been onto something good; the app has been downloaded more than two million times, and may be receiving substantial funding. And the Wall Street Journal suggests that coming improvements… Continue Reading

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On the right track? Google reportedly will be testing a new method of targeting mobile users, one which connects the company’s mobile web tracking mechanisms with its mobile app tracking mechanisms, thereby allowing Google and its advertisers to track mobile users as they switch between web surfing and in-app activities. Until recently, advertisers usually have… Continue Reading

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Completely liable? A Hong Kong court has found that Google may be liable for defamation based on the words that it used to “auto-complete” a person’s name in a search. In this case, the words that were added implied that the subject of the search was a member of an organized crime group. But Google’s… Continue Reading

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May a lawyer ethically instruct a client to delete potentially damaging information from a client’s Facebook page? According to a new ethics opinion from the Philadelphia Bar Association, yes, so long as the information is preserved in some way, should it become relevant to the case. The opinion also determined that, under the Pennsylvania Rules… Continue Reading

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Long arm of the law. A federal judge in Manhattan has upheld a magistrate judge’s ruling that Microsoft must turn over customer emails that are held in a Microsoft data center in Ireland. The key issue is whether communications kept in overseas data centers operated by American companies are beyond the reach of domestic search… Continue Reading

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Going mainstream. For the first time, both Twitter and Facebook are seeing significant growth in online advertising placed by major companies for brands such as Heineken, Tide, McDonald’s, and Charmin. Major consumer products companies have long struggled with the question of how to reach consumers on their mobile devices, and right now, this appears to… Continue Reading

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Going viral: Silencing its critics, Twitter posted strong second quarter results, adding 16 million new monthly active users and boosting its user base by 24 percent from this time last year. #Disappointing: In other Twitter news, the company recently revealed data about the composition of its workforce. It turns out that 90 percent of tech… Continue Reading

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Your tax dollars at work: Wikipedia placed a 10-day ban on changes to the collaborative encyclopedia from a certain IP address inside the U.S. Capitol after discovering that bizarre and embarrassing edits were being made from that address (one such edit claimed that former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is an alien lizard). Other… Continue Reading

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Facebook reported strong results for ad revenue in the second quarter of 2014. Mobile advertising was particularly strong, up 30 percent from last year. Mobile ads now account for 62 percent of Facebook’s advertising revenue. A federal district judge in California declined to dismiss a case against Google that alleged that it did not adequately… Continue Reading

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An Illinois woman was arrested on July 11 and charged with theft after she allegedly stole a dress from a boutique in West Frankfort, Illinois, then posted a selfie wearing the dress on her Facebook page. Police Chief Shawn Talluto noted, “[W]hen the social media aspect played into it, we were able to identify who… Continue Reading

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According to a current study by Bank of America, Americans are very closely attached to their smartphones. Of those surveyed, 85 percent said they check their phone at least a few times a day and 35 percent say they check it constantly. 47 percent of Americans say they couldn’t last more than one day without… Continue Reading