Now that Google+ has launched its Pages feature for businesses and brands, it's time for media companies to think about whether to establish a presence on the site. If the answer is yes, then there are legal considerations to take into account.
Several media entities created Google+ profiles even before Google introduced the new Pages feature. The Google+ Pages available at launch included Anderson Cooper 360, Good Morning America and Special Report with Bret Baier. While the service is still new, Google+ Pages includes modified versions of Google+ profiles, including a circles feature, which allows the entity to follow others and be followed, the ability for consumers to "+1" the page (similar to Facebook's "like" feature), and hangoutslive video chats and meetings. Of course, since Googles+ Pages is a Google product, the company has also promised that the service will include "rich analytics and the ability to connect that identity to other parts of Google that businesses might use, like AdWords."
As your organization decides whether to participate in Google+ or other social networking sites, there are several things to consider.
First, it is important to ensure that your organization's use of the online social networking site is consistent with your organization's existing privacy policies. That means understanding how the social networking service collects information, how a user's interaction with your organization's page might contribute to that information collection, and what access your organization will have to user information. This will be especially important if you partner with the social networking site to offer advertisements either directly on the service or on other Internet sites based on the information that users provide on the social networking site (i.e., through behavioral advertising).
Second, it is important to ensure that your organization's participation does not violate children's privacy laws. Under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, it is illegal to collect personal information from a child under the age of 13 without first obtaining parental consent on a website directed at children or when the operator has "actual knowledge" that it is collecting children's personal information. The Federal Trade Commission is in the process of expanding COPPA regulations to capture social networking more explicitly. So, while sites like Facebook and Google+ have filters to prevent registration by children, your organization could still be liable if it has actual knowledge of the child's age (such as through comments by the user or from other data that your organization may have about the user).
Finally, organizations should make sure that their use of a social networking site does not infringe upon any intellectual property. This will be especially important on Google+, which offers close integration with YouTube, another Google platform. Just because the infringing content on your site was posted by a user does not automatically mean that your organization is immune from liability.
Google+ offers a potentially exciting new way to reach and engage with media consumers. By ensuring that your organization adheres to certain guidelines in its social networking endeavors, your experience will be more likely to be a "+1."
This is a publication of Wiley Rein LLP providing general news about recent legal developments and should not be construed as providing legal advice or legal opinions. You should consult an attorney for any specific legal questions.
Amy Worlton, a partner in Wiley Rein LLP's Privacy Practice in Washington, D.C., advises a broad range of U.S. and foreign companies and institutions on privacy, security, economic sanctions, telecommunications, Internet and e-commerce issues. She frequently represents clients before the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. departments of Treasury and Commerce. She can be reached at 202.719.7458 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ari Meltzer is an associate in Wiley Rein's Communications Practice. He counsels broadcast, cable, newspaper and telecommunications clients on a variety of regulatory, transactional and litigation matters. He can be reached at 202.719.7467 or email@example.com.