Archive for the ‘Lawsuits’ Category

Social Media Changes Taco Bell’s Message

April 25, 2011

Taco Bell announces a new campaign that directly takes on the withdrawn lawsuit claiming that it wasn’t serving beef in its tacos.  The campaign is entitled: “Would it kill you to say your sorry?” And it’s aimed at the law firm that filed the class action suit now dropped. Taco Bell is spreading the campaign through traditional advertising and also social media outlets like Facebook and YouTube.

Is Social Media the Impetus behind such a Campaign?

Its one thing for Taco Bell to publicly defend itself against untrue allegations that go to the heart of their product.  This campaign is different because they do more than defend, they go on the attack against the law firm that filed the suit.  With passive, traditional advertising – TV commercials and print campaigns, such an approach could sound peevish and vindictive.  A powerful company using its brand might to go after a small fish – an Alabama personal injury law firm.  But social media which allows consumer to interact on the same playing field as corporations makes such a personal campaign more acceptable.  People can write on the Taco Bell Facebook wall just as they would on their friend from college.

Prediction: we will see corporations act more like people in selling their goods and services, willing to fight back and to take more risks in how and where they disseminate their messages.  Lawyers and law firms, take note!

Remember:Your Facebook Page Isn’t Private

April 5, 2011

In the old days, teachers would come home with stories about their day to tell their husbands, family and friends.  Generally, they could feel safe – if they trusted these people – that what they said wouldn’t spread to the students and parents.  However, technology has changed this old paradigm both in the ability to snap photos on a cell phone and post them to Facebook.  While to many people, this activity may feel private in the same way as telling stories to friends and family, it’s not.

Case in point is this story of a Chicago teacher who took photos of a girl’s hair breaded with Jolly Rancher candies, posted them to Facebook and made snarky comments on her profile.  This teacher may have felt because her page is viewable only by her friends and family, that this was a private act. Wrong.

A mutual friend of the teacher and the student’s parent downloaded the photos and comments to a CD and shared it with the now furious student’s parent who is looking to sue. Lesson?  No matter who you are, think of yourself as a journalist when posting to Facebook not as the neighborhood gossip sharing stories over the the fence. This may take the fun out of Facebook but that’s better being the target of lawsuit.

1986 Law Exposing Privacy v. Security Conflict

January 10, 2011

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act, enacted in 1986 continues roil the Internet and social networking world.  On the one hand in section one, known as the Wiretap Act, it outlines the protections afforded parties against electronic surveillance and the second section, known as the Stored Communications Act, it outlines the privacy protections afforded the contents of such information by the service providers.

Twitter & Wikileaks

This article in the New York Times suggests the tension within the act between allowing the government quick and efficient access to electronic information in the form of emails and tweets etc. versus the need for service providers to disclose to the user under the same law that information about the user’s account has been requested.  In the Wikileaks case, because Twitter followed its policies to notify users about requests for information prior to disclosure, the public now knows that the Justice Department is investigating Wikileaks.


Much of the privacy debate has concerned how individuals can protect themselves against company and government’s collection of data about them when rights to privacy are eroding.  Disclosure has been a promising way to counterbalance the technological means to learn so much about so many. However, in the case of the government, which needs to conduct criminal investigations covertly, this idea of disclosure, works against the government’s ability to effectively build a case against potential criminal activity.

Unsolicited Confidential Info – What to Do?

January 2, 2011

This article contains a hypothetical where a fired employee of a big warehouse store, sends an attachment with his correspondence with the company’s HR rep to all the attorneys he can who allow potential clients to email them directly.  If one of those attorneys represents the store, does the attorney who received the email and the file, have a duty to keep that information confidential?

The answer generally is “yes” and “no.”  Yes, if the attorney provides no disclaimer on their website warning potential clients that information sent to the attorney will not be treated as confidential.  No, if the attorney’s disclaimer is positioned where the potential client can clearly read it and that its written in plain English.  It should say “no information provide via this contact from will be treated as confidential.”  Do not say, “an attorney client relationship doesn’t apply to any correspondence sent via this contact form.”  For a layperson that doesn’t directly address the confidentiality issue.”

What if you provide a disclaimer page with lots of indecipherable legalese?  Good luck.

Litigator Strategies for Social Media Use

December 18, 2010

Article in the Texas Lawyer on the use of social networking as evidence in personal injury litigation.  The author makes several interesting points:

  • Law is still unsettled and Canadian Law is ahead of U.S. law on this topic
  • The Electronic Privacy Act shouldn’t be seen as precluding release of discoverable information if a court deems the information relevant
  • Given that profile information can be deleted, the social media site should also be contacting as part of the discovery process
  • Finally, given the public nature of social media participation, information restricted by privacy settings should not be seen by the individual as absolutely secure from the other side

Texas Amendment:No Facebook for Jurors

December 17, 2010

An amendment to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure proposes to spell out for jurors that they shouldn’t be discussing their case on “Facebook, MySpace or Twitter” along with other social networking websites.

While I applaud this effort and imagine that other states will follow suit, I do wonder if it will be enough to curb this bad behavior. It’s not like jurors can be confused.  How could it be not okay to discuss a case with your spouse but okay on Facebook?  I think these rules will have to get tougher to have any real impact.

Handling Internet Media Justice in Australia

December 10, 2010

According to this article, the Australian  media is prevented from mentioning the identity of a man accused of murder ibut because of Facebook and the near impossibility of such order reaching individuals posting information on social networking sites, his identity became public anyway.  Its hard to think of how to approach this issue in light of the ease of using social networking by just about anyone.  Will the orders have to go against the providers?  How will they monitor or prevent publication of some information but not other information?

Social Networking Employee Screening: Top Issue

December 6, 2010

EmployeeScreenIQ which offers screening services for mid to large size employers has released its top nine issues for employers to watch out for in 2011.  “Hiring controversies due to social networking.”

They make the point – which is just one of many in this thicket of potentially litigious issues – that employers need to be aware that information on many social networking sites is not verifiable so if an employer relies on this Internet information to deny someone employment, they may have opened themselves up to lawsuits.

Debt Collector Hit with Facebook Harassment

November 16, 2010

MarkOne, an auto financing company has been hit with a lawsuit in Florida from a debtor who claims that her lender committed harassment by contacting her family members on Facebook and telling them that she was late with her car payments.

Her law firm, Morgan & Morgan believes she is a sympathetic plaintiff – placing her on the sidebar of the law firm’s homepage here.

Previously I have discussed how debt collectors have been using Facebook and social networking to apply pressure on debtors. Perhaps this case will lead to specific legislation banning these practices.

Debt Collection & Social Media Snooping

October 30, 2010

posted over the summer about how debt collectors are increasingly using Facebook and other social networking sites to find debtors. This article goes into greater detail about how collectors are using Facebook, the limitations of this approach and why debtors and potential debtors should proceed with caution in what they post on Facebook etc.

Bottom line

Consumers need to think hard about whether they want to be “found” on the Internet.  If they have any qualms, they should use aliases, post a random photos as an avatar and not provide specific physical address information.  Finally they need to recognize that restricting access through privacy settings, might not be enough to protect their online information from being discovered.