Uber Hack – Don’t Tell Anyone!

It’s been revealed that Uber’s database has been hacked, with the personal information of more than 57 million users and drivers worldwide compromised. That’s a big number, but we are becoming increasingly numb to this kind of revelation, with all the cyber-leaks now making the news. What was the more astounding aspect of this particular incident is the fact it has taken Uber over a year to reveal the security breach – with the attack taking place in October 2016.

Uber says that the hackers were able to download files containing information including the names and driver’s licence numbers of 600,000 drivers in the US, as well as the names, email addresses and phone numbers of millions of users worldwide.

Although Uber has now taken steps to notify the drivers affected by the hack, it’s reported that at the time of the breach, the company paid the hackers USD100,000 to delete the stolen data, and not reveal the breach.

In a statement, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshani admitted that he became aware of the “inappropriate access [of] user data stored on a third-party cloud-based service” late last year, and that steps were taken to secure the data, and shut down further unauthorised access. However, Mr Khosrowshani noted he has no excuse as to why the massive breach is only being made public now.

For their roles in the cover-up, Uber chief security officer Joe Sullivan and his deputy have been ousted, while Uber says it’s taking “several actions”, including consulting the former general counsel of the US’ National Security Agency to prevent a future data breach.

This post was written by Cameron Abbott & Allison Wallace of K & L Gates.,Copyright 2017
For more legal analysis, go to The National Law Review

FTC Provides Guidance to Social Media Influencers in Live Twitter Chat

Influencer marketing is the popular practice of using individuals with large social media audiences—known as “influencers”—to advertise products and services through their social media accounts. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has made it clear that influencers must clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing products through social media. To emphasize this point, the FTC sent letters to 90 influencers and marketers earlier this year reminding them of their obligation to make appropriate disclosures on ads. The FTC has also provided Endorsement Guides with answers to frequently asked questions from advertisers, ad agencies, bloggers, and others.

Most recently the FTC hosted a live Twitter chat to answer questions and provide guidance on influencer marketing. The FTC covered a number of topics during the chat, from the use of the hashtag “#ad” as a disclosure to built-in disclosure tools on popular social media platforms. Key takeaways from the Twitter chat are:

  • Using “#ad” is a sufficient disclosure, as long as it is hard to miss in the post.

  • Even if an influencer posts from abroad, U.S. law still applies if it is reasonably foreseeable that the posts will affect U.S. consumers.

  • Built-in tools such as the “Paid” tag on Facebook and “includes paid promotion” mark on YouTube are not sufficient to disclose that a post is an ad.

  • For Snapchat and Instagram posts, the FTC suggests superimposing a disclosure over the images. For a series of images, a disclosure on the first image may be sufficient, as long as it stands out, and viewers have time to see it.

The Twitter chat followed shortly after the FTC announced its first settlement with two social media influencers, Trevor Martin and Thomas Cassell, for endorsing the online gambling service CSGO Lotto without disclosing that they were the owners of the company, as well as paying other well-known social media influencers to promote the company without requiring them to disclose the payments in their posts.

Click here to read a transcript of the questions and the FTC’s responses during the official Twitter chat.

This post was written by Edward J. McAndrewPhilip N. YannellaKim Phan & Roshni Patel of Ballard Spahr LLP Copyright ©
For more legal analysis go to The National Law Review

Recording Conversations with Your Cellphone: with Great Power Comes Potential Legal Liability

In the cellphone age, nearly everyone walks around with a multi-tasking recording device in their pocket or purse, and it comes in handy for many of our modern problems: Your dog suddenly started doing something adorable? Open your video app and start rolling. Need to share that epic burger you just ordered with your foodie friends? There’s an app for that. Want to remember the great plot twist you just thought of for that novel you’ve been working on? Record a voice memo.

Sometimes, though, the need arises to record more serious matters. Many people involved in lawsuits choose to record conversations with their phones, all in the name of preserving evidence that might be relevant in court. People involved in contentious divorce or child custody cases, for example, might try to record a hostile confrontation that occurred during a pickup for visitation. Conversely, others might be worried that an ex-spouse has secretly recorded a conversation and plans to use it against them out of context.

But while everyone has the power to record just about anything with few swipes on their phone, do they have the legal right to do so? If not, what are the possible consequences? Can you even use recorded conversations in court? Consider these important questions before your press record.

Criminal Liability: Can you go to jail just for recording someone’s conversation?

The short answer: Yes. Under Michigan’s Eavesdropping law,[1] it is a felony punishable by up to two years and $2,000 to willfully use any device to eavesdrop on (meaning to overhear, record, amplify, or transmit) a conversation without the consent of all participants in that conversation.[2]It is also a felony for a person to “use or divulge” any information that they know was obtained through illegal eavesdropping.[3]

But there is one important distinction that Michigan courts have recognized: if you are a participant in the conversation, then you do not need permission of other participants to record the conversation (at least not when it comes to the eavesdropping law; there may be other laws that apply, as discussed below).[4] This makes sense given the purposes of the law. The theory is that if you are a participant in the conversation, then other participants at least have a chance to judge your character and determine if you are the kind of person who might relay the conversation to others (either verbally or by making a recording).

The bottom line is that if you use a device, like your cellphone, to record, overhear, amplify, or transmit a conversation that you are not a part of without the permission of all participants, you could face criminal consequences.

Civil Liability: If someone records your private conversation, can you file a lawsuit against them?

The short answer: Yes. The eavesdropping statute allows eavesdropping victims to bring a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator.[5] But the same distinction applies; you cannot sue someone for recording a conversation that they participated in.

Before filing a civil eavesdropping claim, though, consider what if anything there is to gain. The eavesdropping statute permits a judge to issue an injunction prohibiting the perpetrator from further eavesdropping. This may be a valuable remedy if there is a risk that the eavesdropper would otherwise continue eavesdropping on your conversations. The statue also allows a plaintiff to recover actual damages and punitive damages from the wrongdoer. In many cases, actual damages will likely be minimal, and punitive damages are subject to the whims of the judge or jury deciding the case. A result, the cost of litigation may exceed any monetary recovery unless actual damages are significant or the eavesdropper’s conduct was egregious enough to elicit a large punitive award from a jury.

Evidence and Admissibility: Can I use a recorded conversation in court?

Many people are familiar with the exclusionary rule that arises from the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which provides that if police officers obtain evidence as a result of an illegal search or seizure, then the prosecution is prohibited from using that evidence to support their case. This raises the question:

If a regular civilian obtains evidence by recording a conversation in violation of the eavesdropping statute, is that evidence automatically excluded from court proceedings?

The short answer: No. The exclusionary rule is specifically designed to curb the potentially oppressive power of the government in order to guarantee the protections of the Fourth Amendment, at the expense of excluding potentially valuable evidence from court proceedings. Since the Fourth Amendment only restricts government conduct, the exclusionary rule only applies to evidence obtained as a result of unconstitutional government action. As a result, even if a private citizen breaks the law and records your conversation, that recording is not automatically excluded from court.[6]

So does this mean you can use any recorded conversation in court whenever you want?

The short answer: No. Anything presented in court still needs to comply with the Rules of Evidence, and in many cases recorded conversations will not make the cut. A big reason is the hearsay rule, which says that out of court statements cannot be used to prove the truth of the matter asserted.[7] In other words, you can’t use a recording of your neighbor saying “I use my neighbor’s Wi-Fi” as evidence to prove that he was, in fact, using your Wi-Fi.

But there are many exceptions to the hearsay rule which might allow a recorded conversation into court. Salient among these exceptions is the rule that admissions of a party-opponent are not hearsay.[8] Consequently, if a man records his ex-wife’s conversation with her current husband, the hearsay rule will not prevent the man from using the recording of his ex-wife against her in a child custody case; the ex-wife is a “party-opponent” and her out-of-court statements are not considered hearsay.

Continuing this same example, note that the man’s actions would violate the eavesdropping statute (assuming he didn’t have permission to make the recording) because he was not a participant in the hypothetical conversation. But this violation would not keep the recording out of court. Nevertheless, if a prosecutor wanted to press charges, the man could be subject to criminal liability. And if the ex-wife was so inclined, she could file a civil lawsuit against the man and ask for an injunction and monetary damages.

Other Law: Is the eavesdropping statute the only law you need to worry about before recording all of your conversations?

The short answer: No, don’t hit record just yet. Even if you comply with the eavesdropping statute, there are still other potential pitfalls to be aware of. For instance, wiretapping laws govern the recording and interception of telephone calls and electronic communications, and carry criminal penalties. For inter-state phone calls, the laws of other states will come into play as well. And depending on the means you use to obtain a recording and what you do with the recording once you have it, you risk incurring civil liability for a variety of privacy torts, such as intrusion upon seclusion or public disclosure of private facts.

The safest route is to always get permission from everyone involved before recording a conversation or sharing a recorded conversation with anyone. If that’s not an option, consult with a lawyer who has had an opportunity to consider all of the facts involved in your case.

________________________________

[1] MCL 750.539 et seq.
[2] MCL 750.539a; MCL 570.539c.
[3] MCL 750.539e.
[4] See Sullivan v. Gray, 117 Mich. App. 476, 324 N.W.2d 58, 59 – 61 (1982).
[5] MCL 750.539h.
[6] See, e.g., Swan v. Bob Maxey Lincoln Mercury, No. 216564, 2001 WL 682371, at *2 n3 (Mich. Ct. App. Apr. 24, 2001)
[7] MRE 802.
[8] MRE 801(d)(2).

This post was written by Jeffrey D. Koelzer of  Varnum LLP © 2017
For more legal analysis go to The National Law Review

Troll Hunting: Practical Strategies for Businesses to Combat Anonymous Online Trolls

No matter the business you operate, modern commerce increasingly takes place online, rarely putting the consumer and your business face-to-face. A recent study revealed that approximately 80% of American consumers buy products online, and 74% of consumers think it is extremely or somewhat important to read online reviews before making a purchasing decision.[1]  The average consumer reviews three online sources for information before soliciting a local business, typically: a search engine, the business’s website, and a website containing reviews or testimonials.[2]  Small and local businesses are not immune to the internet’s influence, as nearly 40% of consumers seek out online testimonials, ratings, or reviews to evaluate when considering whether to engage a local business for products or services.[3]  In fact, consumers cite negative online ratings and reviews as the second greatest reason not to consider a local business for products or services, behind only high prices.[4]  

Because consumers consistently turn to online resources to determine whether to do business with you, managing your online reputation is an essential task. You must actively control information about your products, address negative reviews, optimize search engines, and improve your customers’ online experience. In fact, many companies employ full time personnel solely to manage their social media presence.

But monitoring your online reputation becomes even more critical when an anonymous user (aka a “troll”) begins posting harmful or false information. The danger lies in the very nature of the internet, as “any person with a phone line can become a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox.”[5]  When that voice spreads false information, interferes with your business, or divulges your trade secrets, what can you do to identify the anonymous user and hold them liable for the harm caused?

Understanding The First Amendment and Anonymous Online Speech

To pursue a claim against an anonymous online user, you must first understand the First Amendment protection afforded online speech. Internet speech is generally granted the same protection as traditional offline speech; that is, most types of speech on the internet are protected to some degree.[6]

The right to free speech online also includes a right to remain anonymous.[7]  Far from being hostile to such online secrecy, the courts have held that careful safeguards to protect anonymous online speech are important to preserve “the robust exchange of ideas and allows individuals to express themselves freely without fear of economic or official retaliation [or] concern about social ostracism.”[8] 

As in the traditional offline arena, some categories of speech, such as fighting words, obscenities, and false statements, are not protected by the First Amendment.[9]  Thus, when trolls exploit the anonymous nature of the internet to post false or damaging information about you, they often exceed the First Amendment’s protections for anonymous online speech. For example, anonymous online users may step beyond the boundaries of protected speech by:

• Creating an email account to distribute your CEO’s sensitive personal emails to senior management.[10]

• Creating online accounts to conduct a smear campaign against you with the objective of inducing employees to quit.[11]

• Posting reviews about working for you that disclose confidential or trade secret information.[12]

• Creating a website using your name to complain about your business practices and post negative reviews.[13]

• Posting false reviews of you online by posing as a former customer.[14]

If not for the use of an anonymous online persona, each of these actions could be addressed by filing a lawsuit against the troll. However, anonymity adds a layer of complication as you must either first find a way to unmask the troll’s identity or stop the harmful conduct by some other means.

Strategies to Address Harmful Online Comments Short of Litigation

Before filing a lawsuit to unmask your troll, first consider whether less costly means might stop the conduct or remove the harmful comments. This approach typically depends on the voluntary compliance of companies hosting the content, and thus is not guaranteed to succeed. However, the low cost of this initial step makes it worth considering. Further, pursuing these strategies, whether successful or not, may cause the troll to stop harming you, or to remove the content voluntarily, thereby accomplishing the end goal.

One alternative to litigation is to determine whether the online statements violate the online service provider’s “Terms of Service.” For example, Facebook’s® Terms of Service prohibit users from posting content that “infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law” and authorizes Facebook to “remove any content or information” posted on Facebook that “violates this Statement or our policies.”[15]  Twitter® also requires users to ensure that posts comply “with applicable laws, rules, and regulations” and permits Twitter to remove “any Content.”[16]  Large online service providers typically offer reporting platforms where you can report a violation of the terms of service and ask to have the false or harmful content removed.[17] Thus, where a post or comment violates the terms of service, a letter to the internet service provider bringing the issue to its attention may be all that’s needed to get the offending content removed.

Another option is to request that search engines, such as Google® or Bing®, “de-index” the page on which the comments appear. “De-indexing” is a request that the search engine voluntarily remove a website from its index, thereby ensuring it will not appear in response to a search about you. Most search engines retain the right to remove offensive content. For example Google’s ® Terms of Service state that Google “may review content to determine whether it is illegal or violates our policies, and . . . may remove or refuse to display content that we reasonably believe violates our policies or the law.”[18]  The result is that, while the website containing the false statement still exists, it can’t be accessed in response to a search. The effectiveness of this step depends on whether the content clearly violates the applicable terms of service or is blatantly unlawful, and a search engine may require a court order finding the content to be unlawful before it will agree to de-index the website.

A final alternative is to address the comments from a public relations perspective. You can choose to simply engage the troll in the online forum itself, to address the falsity of the comments or steer the

discussion in a more beneficial direction. However, this approach carries significant risk that your comments may be used against you, or may even incite a more passionate, negative response. Thus, this approach should be reserved for unique factual situations that justify a public relations response instead of a legal one.

Identifying the Anonymous Online User

If you cannot stop the harmful online comments through one of the strategies above, you should consider filing a lawsuit to identify the troll and assert the appropriate claims against them. First, however, you need to analyze the conduct and determine whether you have a legal claim against the anonymous user. If so, you can file a lawsuit against the troll and attempt to uncover his or her identity.

Step One: Determine Whether the Conduct is Actionable

The types of claims available to combat online misconduct are generally the same as those available in traditional offline situations.

The most common claim pursued against trolls is a claim for defamation. When a person publishes false, harmful statements of fact about your business ethics or financial integrity, they are likely liable for defamation.[19]  Libel—defamation in writing—consists of publishing a false written statement, either deliberately or with at least a negligent disregard for the truth.[20] 

In evaluating whether you have a claim for defamation, you must candidly consider whether there is any truth to the comments, as truth is an absolute defense.[21]  Likewise, opinions are not actionable. So, if the statements are arguably just opinion, as opposed to a statement of fact (or an opinion that could reasonably be interpreted as stating facts), the anonymous speaker will not be liable.[22]  Finally, you must evaluate whether you will be deemed a “public figure,” in full or in a limited capacity.[23]  If you are a public figure, whether limited or not, you will be required to prove that the speaker acted with “reckless disregard of the truth.” Because this is a higher standard than negligence, there is a greater likelihood that the troll will not ultimately be held liable for defamation.

In addition to defamation, there are a number of other claims that you may be able to pursue against your troll:

• If the user is directing its harmful comments at a vendor, business partner, or potential customer, the user may be liable to you for tortious interference with a contract or a business expectancy. To succeed, you must have a valid contract or business expectancy; the anonymous user must both know about it and interfere with it, so as to cause its breach or termination; and have no legal justification for doing so.[24]

• If the user publishes false information about your products or services, the user may be liable for trade libel or business/product disparagement. Each of these claims has similar elements, requiring proof that the anonymous user posted a false statement concerning your products or services to dissuade a potential customer from doing business with you.[25] 

• If the user is a competitor, and the comments contain false or misleading advertisements about your products or services, the user may also be liable for unfair competition under the Lanham Act.[26]  

• If the user posts information containing your trade secrets, the user may be liable under state or federal trade secret laws.[27]

• If the user is a former employee, or had a contractual relationship with you, then the online conduct may violate provisions of that contract, such as nondisclosure or non-compete provisions.

This list is not exhaustive and there may be other potential claims to assert against an anonymous online user.

Step Two: File An Anonymous Lawsuit to Unmask the Troll

Once you identify a viable claim or claims against the anonymous online user, the next step is to file a lawsuit to discover the troll’s identity.

Such a lawsuit is typically filed against an anonymous defendant—John Doe for example—and a subpoena is then issued to the service provider or to the website hosting the content requiring it to identify the user. The service provider or website will likely object, and you will need to ask the Court for an order compelling disclosure of the user’s identity.

There is no universal standard governing when a court will order the disclosure of an anonymous user’s identity. However, most courts apply one of two generally-accepted tests, both of which require a significant showing early in the case that you are likely to succeed on your claims.

The less stringent test requires that you allege facts that—assumed to be true—demonstrate that the anonymous user committed an act giving rise to civil liability.[28]   Because the Court is looking only at whether you have sufficiently alleged a valid claim, your initial complaint is the operative document that the court will consider. You must also demonstrate to the Court’s satisfaction that (1) you have identified the anonymous user and the user is subject to personal jurisdiction; (2) you have made a good faith effort to locate and identify the anonymous user; and (3) the discovery sought is sufficiently limited to identify the appropriate user or users.[29]  This test, or some variation of the test, is used in some Federal Courts—typically in cases involving less protected forms of speech, like commercial speech—and state courts in Wisconsin, and Illinois.[30]

Most jurisdictions apply the second, more stringent test, which requires you to present facts, in the form of admissible evidence or sworn testimony, establishing that you can prove each element of your claim.[31]  This test requires you to provide more than just the pleadings, typically in the form of a statement of facts with supporting documents and testimony. Most states employing this test also require some further steps as well, such as proof that you attempted to notify the anonymous user of the pending proceeding[32]  or satisfaction of an additional balancing test to justify unmasking the troll.[33]  Federal Courts, and many state courts—including Arizona, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, California, Maryland, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia—have adopted some version of this more stringent test.[34]

If it is not obvious from the nature of the statements that they are actionable, some courts may also require an evidentiary showing that you can prove a valid claim before they will order the troll’s identity disclosed.[35] 

Thus, if you file a lawsuit to identify the anonymous user, you must be prepared to present the facts that support your claim much earlier than in traditional litigation. Since most states apply the more stringent “evidentiary” test, the best practice is to prepare to satisfy that test, even if the less stringent test might be applied.

The factual evidence necessary to compel disclosure of an anonymous user’s identity will likely include, at a minimum: (1) copies of the offending posts; (2) sufficient evidence to demonstrate the posts are false, unlawful, or violate the terms of an agreement; (3) sufficient evidence to show that the comments are directed at you, if necessary; and (4) evidence demonstrating that you have suffered damage as a result of the comments. You should be careful to save copies of the offending posts before alerting the anonymous user that action is being taken, in order to guard against any attempt to edit, delete, or restrict access to the comments.

Step Three: Sue The Troll!

Once you have an order compelling disclosure of the anonymous user’s identity, you can serve that order on the service provider or website and expect a response. However, the response may not always identify the user, but may only give you the user’s IP address or other electronic information. You may need to issue additional subpoenas to service providers in order to identify the user of the IP address and ultimately discover the anonymous user’s identity.

Despite having an order in hand compelling disclosure of the anonymous user’s identity, you may still face obstacles from the service provider or website. Typically, large companies that host comments online resist disclosure of their users’ personal information for as long as possible. Thus, they may raise objections to disclosure, justified or not, ranging from invocation of the Stored Communications Act to the Video Privacy Protection Act. But, with the order in hand, you should be able to dispose of these objections through letter-writing, involving the court only if necessary.

Once you know the identity of the anonymous user, you can now amend the lawsuit to substitute the appropriate person for “John Doe.” With an actual defendant named, you can then begin the lawsuit in earnest to hold the no-longer-anonymous user liable for trolling online.

Conclusion

The prospect of trying to identify an anonymous online user can be daunting. But, armed with an understanding of the First Amendment and the applicable procedure, you can readily evaluate whether an anonymous user has engaged in unlawful conduct and whether you can successfully hunt down the troll to hold him or her liable. Good hunting!


References:

[1] Pew Research Center, December, 2016, “Online Shopping and E-Commerce.”

[2] YP Marketing Solutions, 2016, “The Why Before the Buy.”

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844, 897, 117 S. Ct. 2329, 2344 (1997).

[6] In re Anonymous Online Speakers, 661 F.3d 1168, 1173 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Meyer v. Grant, 486 U.S. 414, 422, 425, 108 S. Ct. 1886, 100 L. Ed. 2d 425 (1988)).

[7] McIntyre v. Ohio Elec. Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334, 342, 115 S. Ct. 1511, 1516 (1995) (“[A]n author’s decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.”); Anonymous Online Speakers, 661 F.3d at 1173 (“Although the Internet is the latest platform for anonymous speech, online speech stands on the same footing as other speech—there is “no basis for qualifying the level of First Amendment scrutiny that should be applied” to online speech.”); Doe v. Reed, 561 U.S. 186, 218, n.4, 130 S. Ct. 2811, 2831 (2010) (recognizing that the freedom of speech “can be burdened by a law that exposes a speaker to harassment, changes the content of his speech, or prejudices others against his message”)

[8] Anonymous Online Speakers, 661 F.3d at 1173.

[9] Chaplinsky v. N.H., 315 U.S. 568, 571-72, 62 S. Ct. 766, 769 (1942).

[10] Mobilisa, Inc. v. Doe, 217 Ariz. 103, 106-7, ¶¶ 2-9, 170 P.3d 712, 715-16 (Ct. App. 2007).

[11] Anonymous Online Speakers, 661 F.3d at 1173.

[12] Glassdoor, Inc. v. Superior Court, 9 Cal. App. 5th 623, 626-27, 215 Cal. Rptr. 3d 395, 399-400 (Cal. App. 6th Dist. 2017).

[13] Salehoo Group, Ltd. v. ABC Co., 722 F. Supp. 2d 1210, 1212-13 (W.D. Wash. 2010)

[14] Yelp, Inc. v. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, Inc., 62 Va. App. 678, 686-88, 752 S.E.2d 554, 557-58 (Va. Ct. App. 2014).

[15] https://www.facebook.com/terms.

[16] https://twitter.com/tos?lang=en.

[17] https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/191381691012854; https://support.twitter.com/articles/15789.

[18] https://www.google.com/intl/en-GB/policies/terms/.

[19] Seitz v. Rheem Mfg. Co., 544 F. Supp. 2d 901, 907 (D. Ariz. 2008) (“Although a corporation may maintain an action for libel, it has no personal reputation and may be libeled only by imputation about its financial soundness or business ethics.”).

[20] Desert Palm Surgical Group, P.L.C. v. Petta, 236 Ariz. 568, 579, ¶ 26, 343 P.3d 438, 449 (Ct. App. 2015).

[21] Read v. Phoenix Newspapers, 169 Ariz. 353, 355, 819 P.2d 939, 941 (1991) (“In a civil action for libel, the truth of the contents of the allegedly libelous statement is a complete defense.”)

[22] Yetman v. English, 168 Ariz. 71, 76, 811 P.2d 323, 328 (1991) (“The key inquiry is whether the challenged expression, however labeled by defendant, would reasonably appear to state or imply assertions of objective fact.”)

[23] Makaeff v. Trump Univ., LLC, 715 F.3d 254, 270 (9th Cir. 2013) (recognizing that a limited liability company can be an all-purpose public figure or a limited purpose public figure)

[24] Dube v. Likins, 216 Ariz. 406, 411, ¶ 8, 167 P.3d 93, 98 (Ct. App. June 28, 2007) (citing Miller v. Hehlen, 209 Ariz. 462, 471, ¶ 32, 104 P.3d 193, 202 (App. 2005)).

[25] W. Tech. v. Sverdrup & Parcel, Inc., 154 Ariz. 1, 4 (Ct. App. 1986)

[26] POM Wonderful LLC v. Coca-Cola Co., 134 S. Ct. 2228, 2234 (2014) (“The Lanham Act creates a cause of action for unfair competition through misleading advertising or labeling.”)

[27] 18 U.S.C. § 1836; A.R.S. § 44-401, et seq.

[28] Columbia Ins. Co. v. Seescandy.com, 185 F.R.D. 573, 578-80 (N.D. Cal. 1999); see also Anonymous Online Speakers, 661 F.3d at 1177 (recognizing that “[t]he lowest bar that courts have used is the motion to dismiss or good faith standard.”).

[29] Id. at 578-80.

[30] Anonymous Online Speakers, 661 F.3d at 1176-77; Salehoo, 722 F. Supp. 2d at 1216 (finding that “the prima facie standard is appropriate in order to guarantee that the plaintiff has brought viable claims in connection with his or her attempt to unmask the anonymous defendant.”); Lassa v. Rongstad, 294 Wis. 2d 187, 215 (Wis. 2006) (applying the motion to dismiss standard before compelling disclosure of anonymous identity); Hadley v. Doe, 2015 IL 118000, ¶ 27 (Ill. 2015).

[31] John Doe No. 1 v. Cahill, 884 A.2d 451, 460 (Del. 2005)

[32] Cahill, 884 A.2d at 460; Mobilisa, 217 Ariz. at 110, ¶ 22; Solers, Inc. v. Doe, 977 A.2d 941, 954 (D.C. 2009); Doe v. Coleman, 497 S.W.3d 740, 747 (Ky. 2016); Ghanam v. Does, 303 Mich. App. 522, 541-42 (2014); Ottinger v. Non-Party The Journal News, 2008 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 4579, **4-7 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2008); Pilchesky v. Gatelli, 12 A.3d 430, 442 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2011); In re Does 1-10, 242 S.W.3d 805, 821-23 (Tex. App. Texarkana 2007); Krinsky v. Doe 6, 159 Cal. App. 4th 1154, 1167-73 (2008); Indep. Newspapers, Inc. v. Brodie, 966 A.2d 432, 457-58 (Md. 2009); Mortgage Specialists v. Implode-Explode Heavy Indus., 999 A.2d 184, 193, ¶ 13 (N.H. 2010).

[33] Mobilisa, 217 Ariz. at 112, ¶ 28; Coleman, 497 S.W.3d at 747; Ottinger, 2008 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS at **4-7; Brodie, 966 A.2d at 457-58;Mortgage Specialists, 999 A.2d at 193, ¶ 13.

[34] Mobilisa, 217 Ariz. at 112, ¶ 28; Solers, 977 A.2d at 954; Dendrite Intern., Inc. v. Doe No. 3, 342 N.J. Super. 134, 156-58 (2001); Ghanam, 303 Mich. App. at 541-42; Ottinger, 2008 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS at **4-7; Krinsky, 159 Cal. App. 4th at 1167-73; Brodie, 966 A.2d at 457-58;Mortgage Specialists, 999 A.2d at 193, ¶ 13.

[35] Glassdoor, 9 Cal. App. 5th at 636, 215 Cal. Rptr. 3d 395, 407.

This post was written by Kevin Heaphy of   2017 Ryley Carlock & Applewhite. A Professional Association

Federal Communications Commission Tackles the “Reassigned Number Problem”

Reassigned numbers have been at the center of the surge in litigation under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) during the last few years.  By now the story is well known to businesses that actively communicate with their customers: the customer consents to receive telemarketing and/or informational robocalls[1] at a wireless telephone number, but months or years later the customer changes his or her wireless telephone number and—unbeknownst to the business—the telephone number is reassigned to a different person.  When the recipient of the reassigned number starts receiving calls or messages from the business, a lawsuit often ensues under the TCPA because that party has not consented to receive such calls.  The FCC adopted on July 13 a Second Notice of Inquiry (“Second NOI”) that promises to address this problem in a meaningful way.  Specifically, the Second NOI focuses on the feasibility of “using numbering information to create a comprehensive resource that businesses can use to identify telephone numbers that have been reassigned from a consumer who has consented to receiving calls to a consumer who has not.”

Background on the Reassigned Number Problem

Under the current regime, the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) Administrator generally provides telephone numbers to voice service providers—including those who supply interconnected voice—in blocks of 1000.  The voice service providers recycle those numbers in and out of service, such that, after a number has been dropped, the number goes into a pool for a short period and then is brought out of the pool and reassigned to a different consumer.

The “reassigned number problem” occurs when a consumer consents to receive robocalls (telemarketing and/or informational), but then terminates service to the relevant wireless number without informing the businesses the consumer previously gave consent to make the robocalls.  Businesses that find themselves making robocalls to numbers that (unbeknownst to them) had been reassigned to a different consumer increasingly find themselves subject to lawsuits under the TCPA—this even though it has been widely acknowledged that (1) customers often switch telephone numbers without providing notice to businesses and (2) there is no public directory of reassigned wireless numbers that businesses can rely on to identify and scrub reassigned numbers.  When various industry groups and business entities asked the FCC to intervene, the FCC clarified that businesses making robocalls needed the consent of “the actual party who receives a call,” not of the intended recipient of the robocall.  FCC created a so-called “safe harbor” that afforded little protection in practice: a business could make a single call to a reassigned number without triggering liability under the TCPA, but the business would then be imputed with “constructive” knowledge that the number had been reassigned even if the single call did not yield actual confirmation that the number had been reassigned. The FCC did so even as it admitted that the tools available to identify reassigned numbers “will not in every case identify numbers that have been reassigned” and that the steps it was taking “may not solve the problem in its entirety” even “where the caller is taking ongoing steps reasonably designed to discover reassignments and to cease calls.”

The Second NOI

The Second NOI promises to more meaningfully address the reassigned number problem by suggesting the creation of a reliable, complete list of reassigned numbers that service providers would be required to update.  In pertinent part, the Second NOI addresses a number of other topics, including, but not limited to, possible reporting alternatives, compensation schemes, frequency of updates, and fees and eligibility requirements for accessing reassigned number data.  It also asks a number of logistical questions, including, but not limited to:

(1) What are the ways in which voice service providers could report the information in an accurate and timely way?

(2) Would the reporting—into a database or other platform—“substantially improve robocallers’ ability to identify reassigned numbers?”

(3) What information should voice service providers report?

(4) In what ways might the information reported raise concerns regarding the disclosure of private, proprietary, or commercially sensitive information?

(5) Should reassignment of toll-free numbers also be reported?

(6) What is the quantity of numbers reassigned and the benefits of reducing unwanted calls to these numbers?

(7) Should there be a safe harbor from TCPA violations for robocallers who use the new reassigned number resource?  What would be the advantages and disadvantages?

(8) How can the FCC incentivize robocallers to use the reassigned number resource?

In addition, the Second NOI seeks comment on whether the notification requirement should apply to all voice service providers or just providers of wireless services, and how to “balance the reporting burden placed on voice service providers against consumers’ privacy interests and robocallers’ interest in learning of reassignments.”   The item also seeks comment on which entity should be responsible for notification in circumstances when a voice service provider does not receive numbers directly from NANP, but instead obtains numbers “indirectly” from carrier partners.

The Commission claims it has the authority under Sections 227(b) and 251(e) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended—which give the FCC control over the US portion of NANP and incorporate the TCPA—to require entities that obtain numbers from NANP to also report reassignments.  In fact, the Commission claims that doing so may further the statutory goals underlying the TCPA, which generally prohibits unwanted robocalls.

Although many details remain to be discussed and addressed by the FCC, the creation of the list that the FCC is proposing would address one of the main challenges faced by businesses that want to comply with the TCPA: how to gather reliable and complete information regarding which wireless telephone numbers have been reassigned.  The possibility of such a list working similar to that available to identify telephone numbers in the Do Not Call List is particularly promising, especially if it comes accompanied by safe harbor provisions similar to those attached to the Do Not Call List obligations in the FCC’s rules.

Comments are due August 28, 2017 and Reply Comments September 26, 2017.


[1] For purposes of this post “robocalls” refers to both calls made using an automatic telephone dialing system or using an artificial voice or pre-recorded message.

This post was contributed by Eduardo R. Guzmán  Paul C. Besozzi  and Koyulyn K. Miller of   Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP
For more legal analysis check out the National Law Review.

Power of Communication in Legal Marketing – The Medium Does Change the Message Part 2

communicationsCommunication is important to almost everything we do–and today, we have more ways to reach out than ever before.  Lee Broekman of Organic Communication and Judith Gordon of LeadeEsQ presented at the LMA Tech1 conference in San Francisco, focusing on empowering communication by understanding the medium. In Part 1 we discussed some of the advantages and challenges of communicating face to face and through print.  In this article, we will examine communication over the phone and panel communication–or any way of communication through a screen.

Phone as a medium is what it sounds like–talking on the telephone either one or one or on a conference call. The danger with this form of communication is all the other things we might be doing while we are on the phone–especially on a conference call–everyone knows how easy it is to click over to email, check Facebook on your smartphone, or start to scribble your to-do list on the paper at your desk. While you are still physically on the call, your attention drifts to the other things on your to do list. This hints at what Gordon calls “the lost art of focus.”  She says, “Today’s attention spans have been radically reduced by our tether to technology. We leap from conversation to conversation—from the person speaking to us to email to headline notifications to texts back to the person speaking—without fully engaging in any one of those communications.” Staying engaged on a phone call, and reminding yourself to be present and aware is important when using the phone as a medium. One way to do this is to make sure the conversation is a back and forth–and not just a series of monologues. Additionally, if the call is a conference call with multiple participants, making sure there is a plan in place, so that each participant has a role, and that ground rules are established and enforced, can help.

Panel refers to any form of communication with a screen between the speaker and the listener.  With technology, this is becoming common–web meetings, webinars and some panels where there is an audience in the room, but also some audience members are tuning in via videoconference.  Gordon says, “Presenters are well served by understanding that their ‘audience’ may be viewing or only listening to a recording at a later point in time, and taking those parameters into account when preparing their presentations.” Going beyond just the people in the room is important–and one way to make sure everyone stays engaged is to have an interactive portion. Another good practice for webinars is to focus on visuals. Broekman says, “When our communication is on a panel, we need to color our black and white text and bulleted lists with vibrant visuals that will captivate our audience and keep them attentive to our intention. Many webinars present dry data instead of information that is new, relevant and interesting. Charismatic conversation, speaker photos and conceptual images in shorter timeframes will go a long way towards making the communication in this channel more effective.”

Another major concern with a panel can be a false sense of distance, and the tendency to feel bold when you cannot see the person you are talking to. This barrier is one reason Internet comment sections can get nasty, and people become callous over social media. These tendencies can be devastating when they seep into professional communications.  Broekman argues, “If you can’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it behind a screen.”

Other pitfalls haunt Panel as a communication method.  Like the phone, placing the screen between people communicating removes the opportunity to see facial expressions and body language.  Gordon says, “When we remove that layer of information, our brains ‘fill in the blanks’ by superimposing our own judgment, which can be devastating.” Additionally, Broekman describes one of the biggest communication problems as a failure to listen with an intention to understanding the speaker. “Instead of listening to what the other person is saying, we listen to our own internal dialogue and filter information through our personal judgments, thoughts, opinions and ideas.”  A screen between parties can only amplify the tendency to hear what we want to hear.  With that said, clarity in transmission is crucial, and consistent checks on understanding are important.  Above all, awareness of the potential for misunderstanding is important.

For attorneys, communication is paramount. Communication is also very complicated. Gordon says, “to put it simply, lawyers ‘speak for’ their clients. Whether in transactional matters or litigation, lawyers are conduits of their clients’ intentions. To fully and accurately represent another—the essence of a lawyer’s work—understanding the fundamentals of communication is essential. Key communication skills—such as the ability to listen, understand, and then accurately present a client’s position to third parties in negotiations or litigation—are essential to a successful practice, and the smooth running of our legal system.”

Click here to read part one: Power of Communication in Legal Marketing – The Medium Does Change the Message Part 1

Copyright ©2016 National Law Forum, LLC

1 Broekman and Gordon spoke at the Legal Marketing Technology Conference on October 6th in San Francisco. Their session was entitled Webinars, Podcasts and Mobile (Oh My!) The Medium Does Change the Message. The LMA Tech conference is the largest conference dedicated to technologies that law firms use to identify, attract and support clients.

Power of Communication in Legal Marketing – The Medium Does Change the Message Part 1

communicationToday’s business environment offers more methods of communication than ever before.  However, more choices does not equal clarity or effectiveness, and in some ways, with the many mediums available communicating effectively requires a thoughtful understanding of the medium being used and how to best stay on message within that medium.  Lee Broekman of Organic Communication and Judith Gordon of LeaderESQ presented at the LMA Tech1 conference in San Francisco, focusing on empowering communication by understanding the medium at play.

Communication can be a major challenge for attorneys, yet it is a critical part of a lawyer’s job.  Gordon says,

To put it simply, lawyers ‘speak for’ their clients. Whether in transactional matters or litigation, lawyers are conduits of their clients’ intentions. To fully and accurately represent another—the essence of a lawyer’s work—understanding the fundamentals of communication is essential. Key communication skills—such as the ability to listen, understand, and then accurately present a client’s position to third parties in negotiations or litigation—are essential to a successful practice, and the smooth running of our legal system.

Broekman agrees, saying: “The lawyers I coach are highly skilled at managing cases and deals, but behind those cases and deals are clients and colleagues. Managing people and relationships is an entirely different skill set—lawyers who want to be successful have to put care into connecting with people who have different perspectives and preferences.”

The four main channels of communication are Person, Print, Phone and Panel. Each channel has strengths and weaknesses in particular situations, and understanding the nature of the message can help determine which channel is the most appropriate.

The first channel is Person—and that is what it sounds like—the fewer and fewer face-to-face meetings, when everyone puts away their phones and looks each other in the eye across a desk or table.  This is the best medium for sensitive issues; even though some of the conversations can be difficult.  Broekman says, “Whenever the issue is sensitive, when a possible conflict is anticipated or a misunderstanding is to be expected —we should have a face-to-face or side-by-side conversation.”  Gordon points out that sensitive matters are best handled in person, because of the way humans process information: “Much of the information we glean from others is visual and auditory—facial expression, tone of voice and body language. When we remove that layer of information, our brains ‘fill in the blanks’ by superimposing our own judgment, which can be devastating.”  When the matter is sensitive or misunderstandings are anticipated, walking down the hall or getting on a plane is worth the effort–and when that’s not possible, a videoconference is a reasonable alternative to try and prevent misunderstandings.

Many times, these face to face meetings can be challenging-and the desire to avoid the awkward, sometimes painful conversation can be tempting.  With so many alternative ways of delivering bad news, it’s important to remember that it can help avoid confusion and drawn out conflict by having tough conversations across a desk without a screen as a buffer.  Broekman points out, “Our instinct is to hide behind the screens of our computers or smartphones, but typing or texting instead of talking could lead to bigger problems and drawn out conflict.”

The second channel, print,  is any medium where the written word is paramount—emails, texts, letters, etc.  This is a channel where misunderstandings tend to cluster around tone—as you are “speaking” to readers, not listeners—who cannot see your face or hear your voice.  With this in mind, Gordon says, “direct communication is best. Write each sentence so that it is able to stand alone. A good rule of thumb is to stick to one message per sentence. The ‘one message per sentence’  rule heightens clarity and lessens ambiguity.  Gordon adds,  “It’s also a good idea to avoid sarcasm or innuendo in print, and allow the power of the written word to speak for itself without relying on inference.”

To be clear in print, sometimes it’s helpful to overcompensate with your words to ensure your audience picks up what you are putting down. Broekman says, “Sometimes it’s helpful to ‘massage your message’ with gentle words such as ‘will you please?’ when making a request, ‘yes, and’ when responding, and ‘yet’ when wanting to suggest that something is not quite done.”  Using the tools at your disposal to convey tone is an important step to take.  While smiley face emojis are appropriate when planning post-work drinks, they are not always professional and appropriate.  Broekman also suggests, “writing feeling behind our statements in parenthesis may be effective.”  For anyone who has misinterpreted all caps as anger, this is a tip that might resonate.

In Part Two, we will examine the Phone and Panel mediums of communication and how to negotiate those streams.

Copyright ©2016 National Law Forum, LLC

1 Broekman and Gordon spoke at the Legal Marketing Technology Conference on October 6th in San Francisco. Their session was entitled Webinars, Podcasts and Mobile (Oh My!) The Medium Does Change the Message. The LMA Tech conference is the largest conference dedicated to technologies that law firms use to identify, attract and support clients.