August 12, 2012

Internet Privacy Policy Mistake Costs Google $22.5 Million

The Federal Trade Commission has announced that Google has settled claims brought by the agency arising from allegations its privacy policy falsely informed users of Apple’s Safari internet browser that it would not use cookies to track those users (and their activity) or serve targeted ads to those users.  Google agreed to a record $22.5 million civil penalty to settle the claim, a record for this type of violation. 

Google was already under restrictions arising from a settlement with the FTC over practices employed by its now-defunct social network, Google Buzz.  (I've mentioned that settlement, which cost Google a reported $8.5 million, here and here.)

Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC, commented on the Google settlement:  “No matter how big or small, all companies must...keep their privacy promises to consumers, or they will end up paying many times what it would have cost to comply in the first place.”

The message from the FTC is clear: Internet privacy policies and procedures are right in the agency's crosshairs.  Any company with a website should have a carefully-drafted website privacy policy that accurately describes the company's privacy-related practices.  A "form" policy that does not accurately describe what the company is actually doing with users' information is the best way to attract the attention of the FTC, state regulators and plaintiffs' class action lawyers.

You can read the FTC's press release here, the Complaint here, and the Order here.

Google has not yet issued any statement on its privacy policy blog.


June 27, 2012

Banking Law Modernization Act Enacted

The Banking Law Modernization Act was signed into law on June 21, receiving unanimous support in the Senate and only one negative vote in the House.   My colleague, Knox Proctor, was involved in the drafting of this much-anticipated legislation.  You can find your very own copy here.  Most of the provisions of the Act become effective on October 1, 2012.

You may rest assured that much ink will be spilled in the coming days analyzing the effect of this important legislation.

March 1, 2012

Update: Ray Grace Nominated to Finish Joe Smith's Term as Banking Commissioner

Governor Purdue obviously reads this blog, which is why she followed my suggestion to nominate Ray Grace as the next Banking Commissioner.

Once approved by the General Assembly, Commissioner Grace will serve for the remainder of Commissioner Smith's existing term, which ends March 31, 2015.

In related news, Commissioner Smith has returned to his former law firm where he will be "of counsel" while heading up oversight of the nationwide mortgage settlement.  Sounds like he'll be busy.

You can read the Governor's press release here.

February 15, 2012

Commissioner Smith moves on; Ray Grace to serve as Acting Commissioner

North Carolina Banking Commissioner Joseph Smith, Jr. has been appointed to oversee the $25 billion mortgage settlement we've all read so much about, and has resigned his position with the OCOB effective Thursday (tomorrow).  We are grateful to Joe for the outstanding work he has done on behalf of the people of North Carolina over the past decade and wish him the best.  On a personal note, I want to publicly express my thanks to Joe for the nice things he's said to, and about, me in my short career in banking law.

Chief Deputy Commissioner Ray Grace, who joined the OCOB in 1974, will serve as Acting Commissioner in the near term.  By law, Governor Purdue must submit the name of a permanent successor to the General Assembly within four weeks for confirmation.  In an election year with a besieged Democratic Governor and a Republican legislature, the process could become politicized. 

As far as I know, no other names have been publicly mentioned at this point.

How to Prepare a Business Agreement: A Guide for Young Lawyers

I wrote a short "how to" article for young lawyers on drafting business contracts which was published in The Advocate, the quarterly publication of the Young Lawyers Division of the North Carolina Bar Association.  You can find it here:

February 5, 2012

More on Website Privacy

TechWire published my short article on website privacy here.

"Internet privacy is gaining increasing attention from governmental entities, consumer groups, and plaintiffs' class action attorneys, and is expected to be an emerging source of risk for many companies. Fortunately, much of that risk is avoidable if care is taken to observe the patchwork of applicable legal requirements."

Stay tuned for a more detailed article on this topic in the near future...