In a little-noticed decision, Matter of Noel v. Maria, Support Magistrate Gregory L. Gliedman—a Staten Island, New York family court official—recently permitted a father seeking to modify his child support payments to serve process on the child’s mother by sending her a digital copy of the summons and petition through her Facebook account.

Magistrate Gliedman’s decision struck us at Socially Aware—where we follow such developments closely—as a groundbreaking move. We are unaware of any published U.S. court opinion permitting a plaintiff to serve process on a domestic, U.S.-based defendant through a Facebook account.

As we addressed in a 2012 Socially Aware blog post, in Fortunato v. Chase Bank a federal district court in Manhattan held that Chase Bank could not rely on Facebook to serve a third-party defendant.

While the same federal district court subsequently allowed the FTC to serve defendants through Facebook in FTC v. PCCare247, the service at issue in that case concerned documents other than the summons and complaint, and the defendants were two India-based entities and three India-based individuals who had already appeared through counsel and shown themselves to be on notice of the lawsuit.

Other cases authorizing service via social media have been similarly limited in scope. For example, in WhosHere v. Orun, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia allowed service via social media on a defendant who allegedly resided in Turkey. In Mpafe v. Mpafe, a Minnesota family court authorized the service of divorce proceedings on a defendant by “Facebook, Myspace or any other social networking site” where the defendant was believed to have left the country.

Continue Reading New York Family Court Magistrate Allows Unprecedented Service of Process via Facebook; Will Others Follow?

  • Yik yuck. As we’ve discussed on this blog, secrecy is all the rage these days in the online world. Yik Yak – a particularly edgy social media app that seeks to preserve user anonymity – is sweeping the country, or at least the nation’s college campuses. With users’ identities concealed, the app has reportedly become a popular means for communicating deeply offensive remarks and even threats of violence. At one school, Colgate University, students launched a sit-in to protest against the ugliness they found on the app. And at the University of Tennessee, Dean of Students Melissa Shivers recently sent an email to students warning about the app and emphasizing the importance of civility on campus. With the growing popularity of anonymous social media platforms such as Yik Yak, expect to see increased tensions between anonymous speech rights and efforts to limit hateful or violent speech.
  • Listening in. For some time, many pharmaceutical companies have reportedly “listened in” on patients’ social media conversations to obtain a sense of how their products were actually being used, and data-packaging and data-mining companies have sprung up to help pharma firms get a handle on the discussions on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Now, investors too are starting to jump into this emerging field of “social listening” to get ideas about where to put their money. An Israeli company, Treato, is actively courting fund managers with its pitch that it can tap into these aggregate conversations. Even though no actual patient names are apparently used in these reports, a lot of people are raising privacy concerns. Big Data, meet Big Privacy – should be an interesting battle to watch.
  • Legally social. The Pennsylvania Bar Association just issued a formal ethics opinion on the use of social media by attorneys. Among the key provisions are ones requiring lawyers to have a basic working knowledge of social media as part of their competence in the law, prohibiting lawyers from disclosing confidential client information in response to negative online reviews, and permitting attorneys to access the public portion of jurors’ social media profiles while prohibiting efforts to access private information from such profiles. The formal opinion is one of the most comprehensive on the subject in any state, and is recommended reading for attorneys, regardless of their practice focus.

 

 

  • Upward mobility. These days, Facebook videos, taken as a whole, are receiving a total of one billion views a day, and at least 65% of those views are occurring on mobile devices, Facebook VP of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson noted at a recent Advertising Week panel discussion. Indeed, over the past two years, there’s been an astonishing 532% increase in watching videos via mobile devices, including tablets. That means that advertisers now have the key challenge of creating digital video content that invites engagement by consumers across platforms and devices. People are carving out moments during their everyday activities to consume media via mobile, and advertisers will want to take this into account in planning their campaigns.
  • Blue platform, red platform. Is your choice of social media platform a clue to your politics? A current survey suggests that it might be.  For example, according to the survey, Pinterest fans are older and wealthier than users of other major platforms; hence, they tend to be more conservative than the average Internet user. On the other hand, Twitter aficionados are more interested in politics than most people—and also more liberal. Facebook is the most politically neutral, on average, perhaps because it is so large that pretty much every group is well represented. It will be interesting to see if these findings, released by Quantcast, have an impact on online advertising strategies.
  • Troublesome tweets? In the upcoming high-profile retrial on sentencing issues of Jodi Arias, the Arizona woman who was convicted in 2013 of murdering her lover in 2008, the defense has moved to dismiss on several grounds the prosecution’s intent to seek the death penalty. The defense alleges, among other things, that a police detective’s wife improperly tweeted sealed trial information and uploaded “insulting videos” to YouTube. The trial is set to start on October 20.

Hooray for Hollywood. According to a new study by KPMG, television and movie viewers have never had it better. A report by the consulting company found that the overwhelming majority of well-known movies and television shows are available legally to U.S. viewers through online services such as Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu. The study found that fully 94 percent of popular titles were legally available through one channel or another. The study also pointed out that these legal services provide high-quality viewing, which is generally not true of illegal services. Maybe it is possible to compete with free? After all, sellers of bottled water have done well vis-à-vis tap water by offering products that are high-quality, reasonably priced, convenient and ubiquitous.

There’s an app for that too. Entertainers, celebrities and others who are popular with the teen-age and young-adult demographics are increasingly choosing to promote themselves on mobile app-based social networks, or so-called “chat apps,” rather than through Facebook or Twitter, where it can be hard to stand out amidst the sheer volume of posts. These new chat apps, including Line, Kik, Snapchat, WeChat and Viber, allow for more direct engagement with followers. For example, when Paul McCartney and his band recently headed to Japan, he used Line to interact with fans, personally responding to inquiries and offering a free pack of stickers featuring cartooned images of himself.

Hipster’s paradise. Here at Socially Aware, we’ve taken a keen interest in Ello, the incredibly hip new social media platform that is generating a big buzz in the tech community. Indeed, some have dubbed Ello the “anti-Facebook,” because it does not sell ads based on user data, does not require users to use their real names and has a business model that relies on users to pay for premium features that they select. It is also invitation-only, further sparking interest in the new platform. Ello’s founders say they are aiming the network at artists, designers and programmers – not at the whole universe.  They also report that Ello is doubling in size every three or four days. Will Ello become the next big thing? Will consumer concerns regarding online privacy fuel the growth of alternative platforms such as Ello and, in the search space, DuckDuckGo, services that purport to provide greater privacy protections for users?

  • Is Tumblr trendier? A survey released by Tumblr says the users of that social media platform have higher average incomes than users of Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and a report from Adobe says that this translates into cash: The average revenue per visit from a Tumblr referral is $2.57 on tablets and 67 cents on smartphones. Both figures are higher than the numbers for Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.  According to an Adobe digital analyst, “the fact that [Tumblr] produces the highest revenue per visit from mobile devices is likely due to its user base, which is skewed to young, trendy and well-educated urbanites with a greater affinity for online purchases and the disposable income to spend more.”
  • Come together. At a tech conference in San Francisco on September 15, Facebook announced that it, along with Google, Twitter, Square Inc., and other companies, is launching an initiative to jointly develop software programs that can be shared for free. This move has a great deal in common with Facebook’s strategy of offering its technology, including hardware technology, to other companies in an effort to reduce the costs of development and broaden Internet use. Facebook’s Open Compute concept, unveiled in 2011, already permits it to share the designs for more efficient products such as servers and network switches.
  • Expert needed? How esoteric are forensic methods of technologically linking a person to an online video in a criminal case? A New Jersey man was on trial for invading his ex-girlfriend’s privacy by posting nude pictures of her on Twitvid.com, a video-sharing service. Through several steps, a police detective was allegedly able to tie the uploading of the photos to a particular IP address that was linked to the defendant. The defense objected on the grounds that these technical aspects were not fully understandable to the average juror and required an expert witness to present them. The trial judge, as well as a New Jersey state appeals panel, agreed that a hearing was necessary to consider the nature and extent of the detective’s evidence and whether she was qualified to testify about it or whether an expert was needed.
  • 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 knowingly engaging in targeted advertising to students or their parents and guardians; using certain student-related information to create a profile regarding a K-12 student; or selling or otherwise disclosing such student-related information. Will other states follow California’s lead?
  • Taxi wars. The upstart P2P ride-sharing service Uber and its allies – including the D.C.-based trade group the Internet Association – have begun a public relations campaign to “brand” traditional taxicabs in a negative light and to enhance the public image of ride-sharing apps. Their online campaign, known as “Taxi Facts,” refers to “Big Taxi” as if it were “Big Oil” or “Big Steel,” and states the public deserves to know the truth about the industry. Not to be outdone, the traditional taxi industry has launched a campaign that refers to the new entrants as simply “unregulated taxicabs.”
  • This Bud’s for you. Anheuser-Busch and Facebook have teamed up on a new promotion in which people will be able to go onto the social network and buy their friends beers for their birthdays, to be redeemed at a nearby bar or restaurant. The giver simply enters credit card information, and the recipient redeems an online voucher – as long as he or she is of legal age to drink. “The program was born of A-B’s desire to remain relevant with millennial consumers of legal drinking age – and strengthen our position as the perfect beer for connecting with friends around any occasion,” said Anheuser-Busch’s VP of consumer connections.
  • 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 @KatieHeigl can’t resist shopping #NYC’s favorite drugstore,” which linked to a paparazzi photo of Heigl carrying a Duane Reade shopping bag. The actress had alleged a violation of Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, which prohibits false advertising, and of Section 50 of the New York Civil Rights Law, which prohibits the use for advertising or trade of a living person’s name, portrait, or picture without having first obtained that person’s written consent. As part of the settlement, Duane Reade has reportedly agreed to make a contribution to the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation.
  • With a little help from my friends. Facebook is reportedly testing a new mobile application feature that permits users to search by keyword through old posts from their friends. This innovation—much like the search functionality in cloud-based mobile mail applications—could make it easier for people to revisit otherwise difficult-to-find content, content that may have been “pushed off the page” in light of the chronological structure of social media news feeds.
  • All together now. What if hundreds of thousands of people all agreed to tweet at the same time? It happens! Although countless folks flock to social media sites on or around New Year’s Eve, according to Twitter’s Senior Director of Site Reliability Engineering, most users in Japan “tweet-in the new year” precisely at midnight local time—for example, take January 1, 2012, when Twitter “ground to a halt” as users in Japan tweeted over 16,000 times per second. Wired provides an interesting take on Twitter’s “stress testing” framework, aimed at handling incredibly high-volume traffic like this.
  • 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.
  • 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.  A new social networking app called Sobrr promises users that their posts  will disappear within 24 hours. No more regrets, presumably, for those posts and friendships we may regret in the cold light of dawn. The idea was born in the aftermath of a bachelor party in Las Vegas, or so they say.
  • No kids allowed. There’s nothing like sharing your child’s achievements on social media, as far as many parents are concerned. But because of privacy concerns, or just because they want the decision to share to be their child’s, an increasing number of parents are choosing to keep their children’s accomplishments, and even their names, off the social networks.