- Cover your Glass. We’ve addressed in Socially Aware the growing legal hysteria stirred up by Google Glass and other wearable technology. Just as Polaroid cameras were once banned from beach resorts and even the Washington Monument for crying out loud, expect to see all types of businesses and organizations – bars, restaurants, banks, schools, museums, casinos, circuses, strip clubs, accounting firms, you name it – rushing to enact Glass bans. But some bans may make more sense than others. Movie theater owners, for example, are understandably concerned about those wearable devices, such as Glass, that can record video. Should such devices be banned from theaters? The theater industry says yes, absolutely. Indeed, the trade groups that represent movie theaters and movie studios have both set forth a new policy: No devices of any sort in movie theaters that are capable of recording video. But how far will the ban go? For many people who wear eyeglasses to correct their vision, Glass may be their only pair of glasses. Moreover, as technology advances, wearable recording devices will become increasingly difficult to detect – in the not-too-distant future, there may be no effective way of distinguishing between wired glasses and ordinary glasses. No doubt some enterprising entrepreneur is working right now on a solution to that problem.
- Once more into the breach. California Attorney General Kamala Harris just issued a report concluding that the online data of 18.5 million of the state’s residents was compromised in 2013 as a result of intentional data breaches, up dramatically from 2.5 million in 2012. It’s not surprising that the majority of the data that was compromised was stolen electronically by unauthorized access rather than by the physical theft of a machine that held the data. What may be surprising is that the biggest target is social security numbers; they are apparently the gold standard for hackers because a single social security number can lead to an average of $2,330 in fraud, nearly twice as much as a mere credit card. Consumers – and retailers and banks – beware.
- Tainted love. OK, imagine this. You’re single, and you’re using an online dating site or mobile app. You strike up an online conversation with Mr. or Ms. Right, only to subsequently learn that you were interacting with a shill hired by the site owner or app developer to goose traffic and revenue numbers. You’re upset, of course, but is there any legal problem here? The FTC says that there is, and recently fined UK-based JDI Dating and its owner $616,165 for engaging in this and other allegedly deceptive practices. Jessica Rich, head of the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau, noted that JDI Dating – which operates sites such as cupidswand.com, flirtcrowd.com and findmelove.com – “used fake profiles to make people think they were hearing from real love interests and to trick them into upgrading to paid memberships.” In its complaint, the FTC had charged JDI Dating with violating the Federal Trade Commission Act. This was apparently the agency’s first enforcement action against a dating site or app.
- Big and bigger. Facebook and Twitter are the leading social media networks and, according to a recent Forbes article, they have some interesting similarities and key differences. Facebook is clearly the larger and more successful platform, with over 1.3 billion monthly active users and $2.9 billion in quarterly revenue, compared to Twitter’s 271 million monthly active users and $312 million in quarterly revenue. Both rely heavily on mobile users, with 86 percent of Twitter’s traffic coming via mobile devices while 68 percent of Facebook’s traffic is through such devices. And, every minute, there are roughly 350,000 tweets and 382,000 Facebook “likes.” Not bad for a 10-year old (Facebook) and an 8-year old (Twitter).
- New media, meet old media. Can success on the ultra-popular social network YouTube translate into success in, of all things, printed books? The book publishing industry is betting that it can, and has searched the world of pop-culture personas on YouTube for people who might be able to convert their millions of online followers into book readers. Take Michelle Phan, whose YouTube channel with makeup and beauty advice has attracted more than seven million subscribers. Her new book, “Make Up,” is set for publication this month, and is generating a big buzz. One industry executive dubs the video stars-turned-authors phenomena a “book-publishing tsunami.”
- Glass pain. We’re all aware that alcohol, drugs, smoking and gambling can become dangerous addictions. Will we soon be adding wearable computers to this list? According to The Guardian, scientists have recently diagnosed and treated a man “believed to be the first patient with internet addiction disorder brought on by overuse of Google Glass.” The patient reportedly removed his Glass only to shower and sleep, and, while sleeping, viewed his dreams as if he were still wearing the device. Although being treated for Glass addiction and alcohol addiction at the same time, the patient informed his doctors that his withdrawal from Glass was more difficult than his withdrawal from alcohol.
- 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 her social media accounts – as they have to physical assets. The law only applies to people whose estates are located in Delaware and processed under Delaware law. Companies such as Google oppose laws of this type, asserting that they would lead to privacy violations.
- The drive to curb Glass. As Google Glass becomes more widely available, a number of states are considering legislation that would restrict drivers from using Glass and similar wearables on safety grounds. Even if ultimately adopted, however, would such laws be effective? As first reported in the Wall Street Journal, Prof. Adam Gershowitz of William & Mary Law School, in a recent research paper, argues that such laws would be “practically unenforceable.” Prof. Gershowitz notes that most of the contemplated bills only prohibit using Glass while driving, yet a police officer would have no real way of knowing whether a driver wearing Glass is in fact using the device. And while two bills under consideration would more broadly ban wearing Glass and other head-mounted wearables while behind the wheel, these bills overlook smart watches. (We’ve covered in an earlier blog post the difficulty law enforcement agencies have had going after Glass-wearing drivers under laws adopted in the pre-wearables era; that post can be reviewed here.)
- And while we’re on the topic of driving and technology . . . . Every new popular technology or app spawns new questions of etiquette and proper behavior. In the case of the fast-growing Uber service, lots of people who aren’t Uber drivers find themselves being accosted for a ride by potential passengers. In other words, people keep getting into strangers’ cars. Just make sure that the driver isn’t wearing Glass, okay?
- 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 has gone? What could happen if an Internet-active sticker were attached to a retail product at a store?
- Changing timelines. Twitter has changed the way in which it prepares a person’s timeline of tweets. Now, the timeline will include not just tweets from users whom the person follows, but also tweets that Twitter, according to its algorithms, thinks are “popular or relevant” to the person. The idea, according to Twitter, is to make the timeline “even more relevant and interesting.”
- Expanding the vine. The social app Vine has announced that its signature six-second videos can now be created with any high-end camera and software, not only with smartphones’ cameras. This change is expected to attract more brands to the rapidly growing social network.
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 examine the use of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to combat web scraping; we explore the launch of Google Glass in the UK and the issues it raises; we analyze the FDA’s latest attempt to provide direction for drug and device manufacturers concerning how and when they may use social media; we report on a recent case concerning whether service providers can avail themselves of certain DMCA safe harbors; we highlight the increasingly important role of social media services in proxy contests; we take a look at how the Supreme Court’s Aereo decision might impact other areas of technology; and we discuss the ongoing controversy regarding website accessibility under the ADA and California’s Unruh Act.
All this—plus a collection of thought-provoking statistics about social media and the World Cup…
Read our newsletter.
- A relatively new site called Wanelo combines the features of a social media site and an e-commerce site by permitting users to “save” products that they are interested in, and showing them to their online friends. The site now claims a 50 percent saturation rate among college-age women.
- In a dramatic and tragic case in Georgia in which a young boy was left to die in a hot car, police have revealed that both his parents searched, before the death, on their mobile devices for information about child deaths in the heat. This kind of digital evidence is becoming extremely common in cases of all sorts.
- The line between prosthetic devices and wearable technology is blurring, as devices such as Google Glass can give users an augmented sense of sight, and other senses can be augmented as well.
Until now, the Android-powered glasses were only available in the U.S. However, as of this week, Glass has been launched in the UK. Now, if you are 18 years old, have a UK credit card and address and a spare £1,000, you can purchase your own Glass and see what the fuss is all about.
Google has stated that it selected the UK for its second market because “[the UK] has a history of embracing technology, design and fashion and … there’s a resurgence happening in technology in the UK”. But perhaps it is also because the UK’s data protection regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), has a reputation for being one of the more pragmatic privacy regulators in Europe. Because, for all its exciting technological benefits, Glass raises some thorny legal issues, in particular in relation to privacy. In this alert we will address some of those key issues.
WHAT IS GOOGLE GLASS?
As many readers will already be aware, Glass is a form of wearable technology that gives its users hands-free access to a variety of smartphone features by attaching a highly compact head-mounted display system to a pair of specially designed eyeglass frames. The display system connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth. Glass can run specialised Android apps known as “Glassware”. In its current form, Glass can pull information from the web, take photographs, record videos, make and receive phone calls (via the Bluetooth smartphone connection), send messages via email or SMS, notify its user about messages and upcoming events, and provide navigation directions via GPS. Although Glass is still in the testing stage and boasts only a modest set of features, the prototype device has already caused quite a stir. In particular, it has some triggered significant privacy concerns.
In terms of privacy, Glass throws up a variety of issues. Due to its functionality, Glass is likely to process two types of data relating to individuals: (i) personal data and meta data relating to the wearer of the Glass (“Glass User”) and (ii) personal data and meta data relating to any member of the general public who may be photographed or recorded by the Glass User (“Public”). In June 2013, a group of regulators and the Article 29 Working Party, wrote to Google inviting Google to enter into a dialogue over the privacy issues relating to Glass. The letter pointed out that the authorities have long emphasised the importance of privacy by design, but added that most of the authorities had not been approached by Google to discuss privacy issues in detail. In Google’s response it stated that protecting the security and privacy of users was one of its top priorities. Google also identified various steps that it has taken to address privacy concerns, including a ban on facial-recognition Glassware.
PERSONAL DATA OF GLASS USER