2010. What a year for data security and privacy, and the law. Choose whatever story you want: Facebook privacy practices, Google Buzz, Wikileaks data breach , TSA full body scanning at the airports, FTC Do Not Track, etc. I am having trouble thinking of a week (perhaps even a day) in 2010 where there wasn't a big privacy or data security story reported at a major media outlet. It is difficult to come up with an issue in 2010 (except perhaps "the economy" or the healthcare debate) that became more firmly lodged in the public consciousness than privacy and data security.While we were all thinking about Halloween and Thanksgiving, and trying to avoid the crush of Hanukah, Christmas and New Years, several privacy lawsuits were filed against online behavioral tracking companies and some of their clients. In my view these lawsuits and the activity that arises out of them (regulatory and otherwise) will be one of the big data security and privacy stories of 2011. What follows is a very brief listing of some the key lawsuits from 2010 that InfoLawGroup is aware of and tracking. There may be more that are not on the list (such is pace of change in this space) and if you know of others, please send them to me so I can list them here to serve as a resource for the larger privacy community. Over the course of 2011 (and beyond) InfoLawGroup will be taking a deeper look at these cases and providing updates as they progress through motion practice, trial and settlement.
As of late there has been a great deal of news and discussion concerning "web scraping." Web scraping is the practice of using computer software to extract information from a website. In short, a wealth of information exists on the Internet and companies of all stripes are interested in collecting it from websites, compiling and combining it, and using it to further their business.Scraping raises a multitude of legal issues, including issues related to privacy and security intellectual property, and laws concerning unauthorized access to computers and trespass to chattels (in fact, the overlapping issues raised by scraping represent a very good example of what we call "information law"). Many companies attempt to stop scraping of their websites from occurring in the first instance. This can be achieved by implementing technologies such as CAPTCHA (which are becoming ubiquitous) that are intended to ensure that a human is entering the website rather than a computer software program or bot. If technologies like CAPTCHA are evaded by scrapers, some websites might pursue an action under the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the "DMCA"). The DMCA provides for potential statutory penalties and even criminal sanctions for violations of its anti-circumvention provisions. This post explores how the DMCA might be used in this context and looks at some cases addressing whether circumvention of CAPTCHA (and similar protocols) might result in violation of, and liability under, the DMCA.