Online Privacy Issues Growing – Spotlight #222



  • The Justice Department wants information about 1.3 million people who visited an anti-Trump website earlier this year. 
  • You can now order food on Facebook and subscriptions on Google. We have other new online examples of industry disruptions.
  • The FTC reached a 20 year privacy agreement with Uber. Yep, 20 years.

Good morning! It is August 21, the day of the solar eclipse. People are excited beyond words about that event. Here is a nice CNN resource with maps, transit times, and explainer videos. And remember that the day without solar eclipse news is coming.


The US Department of Justice has filed legal paperwork demanding that web hosting company Dreamhost turn over records related to 1.3 million visitors to the anti-Trump website, Dreamhost provides the computer servers that make this website available online.

After the Department of Justice apparently refused Dreamhost’s request to narrow the scope of the information requested, the two are scheduled in D.C. Superior Court on Thursday. At issue is whether the federal government has the right to receive information that can be used to identify individuals (you, me, your groovy Aunt Susie) who simply visited the site online.

The government continues to press for information, even for casual visitors who simply clicked a link. Critics say that the request is “overreach” and called it unconstitutional.

Learn more fast: Dreamhost blog, EFF including filings, Fortune

Uber’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad summer continues. The company again entered a settlement agreement with the FTC regarding privacy complaints. Uber paid a $20 million fine in January and now has agreed to provide the government with third-party privacy audits. The findings of a Justice Department investigation into the company’s alleged avoidance of law enforcement vehicles is still pending. You can read the FTC announcement online.

Other cases involving privacy this week include a court’s ruling that a data broker can continue gathering public LinkedIn profile information even if it does not have a relationship with the person. (Read Chicago Sun-Times coverage)

Facebook also addressed a unique privacy issue in a post that explains how the company handles account information for people who have passed away. It’s worth a read if you have an active Facebook account.

Bloomberg reported on the cutthroat restaurant delivery industry this week with some startling data points. Papa John’s Pizza now calls itself an e-commerce company and receives 60% of its orders online, including from Facebook. McDonald’s and Uber are partnering to have fast food delivered, and voice-activated devices are also taking orders. This shouldn’t surprise many of you. Bloomberg’s data shows that about 70% of people have ordered food online.

One of the most famous online disruptors was Amazon’s patent on one-click ordering technology. This was a big deal 17 years ago. Expect to see changes on some of your favorite websites when the patent expires on September 11.

A March 2000 op-ed piece in the New York Times by Internet pioneer and author James Gleick expressed sarcastic wonder that a company could hold a patent on such a common process. And in prescient words, he wrote, “When 21st-century historians look back at the breakdown of the United States patent system, they will see a turning point in the case of Jeff Bezos and and their special invention: ”The patented One Click(R) feature…”

News of two other disruptions came this week. Google will follow Facebook’s example and start selling subscriptions to news publications. And Apple flashed some of the cash we told you that they had by announcing that they would spend up to $1 billion on video programming like Netflix or Amazon. That leaves Apple with only $255 billion in cash.

Learn more fast: Bloomberg on delivery and Google subscriptions, The Wall Street Journal on Apple video

Headline Scan
  • Facebook will expand its Marketplace service, a Craigslist competitor
  • Tech journalism website Mashable is looking for a buyer
  • White supremacist website The Daily Stormer has been forced to retreat to an underground site after American and later Russian companies refused to host the site or act as its domain registrar
  • Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg donated $100 million of her Facebook stock to charity. It’s become a regular gift for her. She’s now donated about a quarter-billion dollars of her estimated $1.6 billion.
  • Google and ProPublica announced that they will be creating a free database of news about hate crimes. 

Following Up
  • This spring we told you about big brand name advertisers stopping their YouTube purchases because they couldn’t control the type of content that featured their advertising. Those advertisers are coming back now. Verizon is back on YouTube now and will use a third-party auditor in conjunction with their orders.
  • Net neutrality advocates are giving Congress an eyeful. Advocacy group Fight for the Future announced that it had purchased billboards in six states that target members of Congress who oppose net neutrality.

What Silver Beacon Does

We believe that the Internet can be a powerful tool for helping organizations make the world a better, more positive place in which to work and live. We support organizations that are the heart of that positive energy. And we believe that data can help even the smallest firms compete nationally.

To help companies accomplish that change, we offer online marketing services, including Search Engine Optimization, Google, Bing, and Facebook advertising, and amazing social media marketing. There are no long-term requirements. 

Talk with us if you would like to explore working together. Call us at 802.232.2667 or click that green button below this box.

Write George

Images of keyboard courtesy Macedo Media. LinkedIn, Uber, and Facebook logos courtesy of each respective company. Pizzeria photo courtesy Gustavo Garcia.

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