Archive for June, 2012

Update on Pandora’s California Consumer Rights Notification

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Pandora logoA while ago I blogged about a page footer I noticed on internet-radio/jukebox sitePandora with a link to “Your CA Privacy Rights,” advising California residents of California Civil Code §1798.83 and entreating them, pursuant to that law, to “request and obtain from us once a year, free of charge, a list of the third parties to whom we disclosed their personal information (if any) for direct marketing purposes in the preceding calendar year and the categories of personal information disclosed to those third parties.”

I wrote Pandora and made this request just to see what would turn up. As I disclosed to Pandora in the request, I am not, and was not during the past year, a California resident. I asked them if they would honor the request nonetheless. Josh M at Pandora responded the same day to say:

Hi there,

Pandora Media, Inc. has not disclosed your personal information to any third party for the third party’s direct marketing purposes within the immediately preceding year.

Hope that helps and thanks again for writing.
Best Regards,

Josh M

Listener Support
PANDORA® internet radio
Need help?

Interesting. I would have imagined they had.

I wrote in some detail about §1798.83 in my previous post last month. Debuts “Truth” Point System

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 logoSina Weibo – China’s Twitter-like microblogging site – has created a new point system to extend Chinese government influence over what is and is not deemed “true.” New guidelines forbid communicating content considered “untrue,” or which is deemed to “harm national unity,” or “destroy societal stability.”

This sort of speech has long been illegal in China. But with Sina Weibo’s burgeoning 300 million users, website policy may have more reach than the criminal law.

When creating an account on the site, which is also known as, a user gets 80 points of credibility, or 100 points if the user plugs in a government-assigned ID number to create the account and links to a cellphone. Then, whenever the Sina Weibo user communicates something deemed “untrue,” points are deducted. The more people to whom the “falsehood” is communicated, the more points are deducted. For instance, spreading a “falsehood” to more than a thousand other users results in a deduction of 10 points and a 15-day account suspension. Users can gain points by staying in compliance with government censorship policies. Once the points fall below 60, the user is deemed “low credit.” Once the points get to zero, the account is closed.

Sina Weibo has been a key means of the dissemination of information about disasters and government scandals that the Chinese government has tried to play down, deny, or bury. This new point system will presumably cause Weibo users to self-censor to avoid account closure, helping to allow the Chinese government to bring social media to heel.


Bloggers’ Blog Law Summit in Grand Forks!

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

cell phone picture of Eric E Johnson and Eric P Robinson

Me and Eric P. Robinson

Yesterday I was thrilled to hear from Eric P. Robinson, who happened to be in Grand Forks, North Dakota as he was meandering cross-country from Reno, Nevada to New York.

It’s not often we get visitors up here in Grand Forks. It’s even less often that we get visitors who blog about the law of blogging. Actually, Eric writes the only other blog out there, so far as I know, that is focused primarily on blog law: Blog Law Online. So, I’m grandiosely calling our meeting over coffee a “summit.”

Speaking of Blog Law Online, I definitely recommend Eric’s recent post on the Sixth CIrcuit’s decision in the Jones v. case which includes a concise explanation of the factual and legal context of what may turn out to be an important precedent-setting case.

Happy trails, Eric.

Google’s Latest Transparency Report See “Troubling” Uptick in Government Requests

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Google's logo in bright, primary colorsGoogle’s latest biannual Transparency Report discloses an increase in government requests for user data and take downs. In the last half of 2011, government agencies requested the removal of 6,192 items posted on Google sites and asked for information from 12,243 Google user accounts.

Google senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou blogged some analysis of the data in the report:

Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different. When we started releasing this data in 2010, we also added annotations with some of the more interesting stories behind the numbers. We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not.

Chou noted that it’s not just the countries you would expect asking for the takedowns.

Spanish regulators asked us to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing individuals and public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors. In Poland, we received a request from a public institution to remove links to a site that criticized it. We didn’t comply with either of these requests.

Google did, however, comply partially or fully with 42 percent of the “requests,” which includes court orders as well as more informal asks. The majority of requests related to criminal investigations.

Kudos to Google for publishing these reports and a wealth of well-organized underlying data (including lists, maps, raw data).


Amanda Simmons at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: Google report: Government agency requests for content removal and user data rise globally and in U.S.

Lori Andrews on Social Media, Privacy, and the Red Cup Menace

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Book coverThe ABA Journal has an interview of Lori Andrews, law professor at IIT’s Chicago-Kent and author of the new book, I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy.

I tend to agree with what she says. For instance, she calls it “ludicrous” that courts do not consider e-mails to be presumptively private. I completely agree with that.

I’ve just ordered the book off Amazon.

I’m particularly eager to hear more of Andrews’s social-media horror stories, some of which she relays in the interview, including the “red cup” cases, where institutions have assumed that a red cup in a posted photo contains an alcoholic beverage.

Avirl holding red cup at camera[Note to underage partiers: The grown-ups now know about the red cups! You guys were safe when it was just you and the cool kids like Avril Lavigne (pictured at left, from Rihanna's "Cheers (Drink to That)" video). But that's no longer the situation. The PTA crowd undoubtedly picked this up from country singer Toby Keith latest bar anthem, "Red Solo Cup." Or maybe they heard the cover version done by the Glee Cast. At any rate, in my professional opinion as a legal scholar, once a meme goes through Toby Keith and Glee, it's too late to recall it. Your best bet now is the blue solo cup,  available from all fine cup retailers everywhere.]

blue solo cup
Blue is the new red.
Photo: Solo, with others, CC BY 2.0.
(Altered with GIMP.)

UPDATE: My apologies for saying “Red Solo Cup” is Toby Keith’s “latest” bar anthem. It turns out he has released another since then. Blog Law Blog regrets the error.

Also in the interview, Professor Andrews  provides her views on how the law is coming up short in dealing with social media. There’s also an interesting excerpt she reads in which she talks about the importance of the judges clothing and the ambiance of the courtroom. Interesting observations. Sounds like it will be a good read.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Sorry about this. It turns out that since I started drafting this post, Toby Keith has released yet another bar anthem. So, that means “Red Solo Cup” would be his third most recent … wait here comes another …