Evolution of the Internet
The web is constantly evolving, which means sites that were once major players quickly fade into the ether. We saw another example of this evolutionary process this week with one of the major online directories. Yes, the iconic Yahoo Directory is going to bite the dust in a stunning bit of web news. Once considered a must link for those hoping to rank high in the search engine results, the value of such directories faded and apparently so has Yahoo’s interest in maintaining one. Now if only someone would do something about DMOZ.
Another week, another challenger to Facebook? Of course. This time “Ello” is the platform in question. The site is invite-only at the moment, but it essentially promises to “be like Facebook,” but without all the privacy problems and ads. Will Ello become the next big thing? Difficult to say, but the site is off to a rough structural start. The domain for the site is https://ello.co. Use the “.com” equivalent, and you end up at a corporate website for a dietary supplements company!
Finally, Google is rolling out a new Panda update. This one is supposedly going to help small businesses. What? Major brands not listed in every position of the top 10 for every major keyword? Could it be? A check of the rankings shows things still appear pretty much the same at this time.
Yelp Consumer Reviews
Celebrity Photo Hack
In sensational celebrity web news, yet more nude photos of celebrities hit the web this week. Jennifer Lawrence, Cara Delevingne, and Anna Kendrick were the ladies of interest. The photos consist of selfies, which begs the question of why their legal counsel is not serving takedown requests on the sites publishing the images? The unauthorized use of these photos is not a difficult legal issue to deal with so long as the pictures are selfies. Read more here.
In less titillating privacy news, the FBI is not a happy agency. The problem? Tech giants Apple and Google are actually trying to provide customers with privacy. This will not do! FBI Director James Comey is particularly unhappy about the efforts of the companies to encrypt smartphone communications. In providing users with this fundamental privacy, Comey suggests the companies are placing “customers above the law.” Apparently, Mr. Comey has never heard of the Bill of Rights. Read more here.
Proving the FBI isn’t the only agency overreaching on privacy, Russia is trying to force Twitter, Facebook, and other large companies to place servers in Russia to store all messages sent by Russians. What could go wrong? Read more here.
Not to be outdone, Australia is in the process of passing an anti-terror bill that makes the Patriot Act look like a sports bar drink receipt. The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill will give the Aussie equivalent of the FBI the authority to broadly monitor the web while providing jail sentences of up to 10 years to whistleblowers and journalists who disclose classified information. Read more here.
FTC COPPA Action
In FTC news, the much-criticized agency shocked everyone by trying to enforce the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. Not only did the FTC hit Yelp, but it forced TinyCo to pay $300,000 to settle claims it violated COPPA. Still, the FTC is woefully inadequate at enforcing this law, which no doubt warms the hearts of child predators everywhere.
The FTC did, however, continue to rampage across the web in an effort to stop deceptive advertising practices by companies. The Agency:
- Issued warning letters to 60 plus companies claiming said companies were not meeting proper disclosure requirements online.
- Siphoned a $500,000 settlement out of Delta Prime Refinance, a mortgage company, for falsely claiming it could refinance mortgages at no cost to clients.
- Obtained a court order barring a mortgage telemarketing scam while also forcing the company to pay $5.7 million in civil penalties.
- Pursued an injunction against Butterfly Labs for selling Bitcoin mining machines it rarely, if ever, delivered.
- Obtained a settlement with L’Oreal in which the company agreed to stop suggesting its products “activated genes” to stop the aging process for women for the flimsy reason that the products didn’t actually do so.
The effort of the FTC to hammer questionable mortgage company practices, in particular, is to be applauded. Pity the actions are occurring now instead of before the Great Recession when highly questionable mortgage practices nearly wiped out the banking industry.
And that’s it for another week of web news. Look for further updates next week.
To your success!
Richard A. Chapo, Esq.
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