Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Geotagging: Should Privacy Be a Concern

One widget continuing to grow in popularity is geotagging -- adding a geographical location (usually in longitude and latitude coordinates) to social media content, such as Flickr or Facebook, using Global Positioning System or WiFi Triangulation technology. Geotagging allows users to specifically locate the source of interesting posts, videos, etc. Although a simple mechanism, it's shaping up to possibly be a $100 million-plus business, according to a recent article on gigaom.com. Debating its potential profit is one thing, but what about privacy issues? Should users be concerned about letting others know where they are, when they publish content? Do the benefits of sharing your location for social/education purposes outweigh giving up your privacy? Should users be to blame for breach of privacy issues?

Wikipedia briefly mentions privacy concerns on their "Auto-geotagging" entry noting that this type of software "can track people’s locations."

While you can edit your privacy settings and switch geotagging off, sometimes people forget to turn it off after turning it on once. Also, by then others users have had access to your location history. Convenient and user-friendly features such as Google Maps "How To Get There", downloadable flash and non-flash maps, and email and instant messaging directions make it simple for stalkers to load information to their phones and go.

A PCMag.com article takes a lesson from the Google Buzz privacy debacle and advises users to avoid the safety hazard by simply turning off their location feature.

For Internet Law Firms the bulk of legal privacy cases specific to geotagging has yet to become a mainstream issue, be cautious before readily tagging your latest picture or blog of your home, workplace, or hangout -- you never know who's following you online and in reality. Besides, isn't a general description (i.e. Los Angeles) enough?

This article by Taren Fujimoto. Edited by Erik Syverson.

Friday, April 16, 2010

BroadcastersCome Together to Launch Mobile Content Service

Is it possible that several major television broadcasters can figure out mobile content through a joint venture? Fox, Gannett Broadcasting, Hearst Television, NBC, and eight other broadcast mediums are launching a joint venture to develop a new national mobile content service, according to a recent PR Newswire release.

The service will use the nation's existing broadcasting infrastructure in accordance with the Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Initiative -- giving nearly 150 million American consumers easy access to mobile video.

While the venture is meant to be the next platform of digital television and aid Americans (especially those in rural areas and the older population), just how effective the initiative will be? Will babyboomers struggling to keep up with the sprawling digital revolution have the need and know-how for content? Inundating these consumers with mobile content on their phones that they just learned to use a few years ago could overwhelm them and leave them feeling alienated.

Also, in terms of content, how will venture partners and their subsidiaries assure consumers of varied content representative of what they want to see versus what advertisers pay for? Will the same FCC guidelines for TV apply to this mobile content, or will it need a special set of guidelines? Lawyers specializing in internet law and new media will be paying close attention.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Where Social Networking Goes Wrong?

As an internet defamation lawyer, I was very interested in Tech Crunch's recent post regarding new social networking website GetUnvarnished.com. Ratings sites have been driving internet growth the last 2 years and Unvarnished takes it to the next level. Rather than rate businesses as Yelp invites users to do, Unvarnished allows users to rate each other. The defamation possibilities are endless and no doubt lawsuits will abound (interestingly, the site bills itself as "unvarnished" but apparently cannot and has not obtained the domain address www.unvarnished.com which hosts a blog by someone named Travis Smith).

For the most part, Section 230 protects sites like Unvarnished but that may begin to crack. Yelp has been exposed for essentially running an extortion ring according to a slew of recent lawsuits. Unvarnished may run into challenges based upon similar claims. Also, these ratings sites are getting more and more aggressive in an effort to populate their site with content. Unvarnished may or may not catch on, but it illustrates a larger legal and social issue as we head into the next decade of internet development.