The Federal Trade Commission recognizes that many people benefit from companies’ online tracking by getting advertising that is more targeted to their preferences. However, as the technologies and techniques used by companies and advertisers to uniquely identify and track individuals’ online behavior advances, the FTC warns that companies’ privacy disclosures and practices must be updated. Failure to do so could be considered deceptive under the FTC Act.
Brand companies have come to view user-generated content as often one of the most effective and authentic ways to advertise their products or services. This is known as “user-generated content marketing.” For example, with the ubiquitous selfie, brand companies have discovered a rich supply of user-generated content. Consider a consumer who takes a selfie wearing a favorite pair of jeans, posts the photo on Instagram, and then tags the photo with #brandname. The jean company sees and likes the photo, re-posting it on the company website. Legal issues? If the consumer or user was hoping to get attention from the brand for the photo and opinions shared online, not at all. This is how many digital influencers get their start. But if the user was not seeking such attention? Then, problems can arise.
A party’s right to privacy has always been an important and sometimes limiting factor in the resolution of discovery disputes. Social media platforms, which allow users to select the extent with whom they share their network, posts and photos, inevitably create a conflict between what users perceive as “private” content (based on settings used to control who they share information with) and the fact that all content that is relevant to a particular lawsuit may be discoverable. Litigants are finding that in resolving discovery disputes involving social media, the technological platforms may be new but traditional discovery rules still apply. Below are four cases that have helped establish a familiar patch of terrain in a legal landscape that has been remade in so many other ways by social media.