Browsing the archives for the Online Issues category.

Malware – Really Getting Tired of This

malware, Online Issues

A month or so ago, I was using Safari on my Mac when a window popped up announcing that my computer was infected and that a reported phasing website was ahead!  Here is the screen I saw:


Note that I was instructed to call their Helpline to fix the problem. They also listed a website, presumably to go to for help. However, this is a bogus website, but I didn’t discover that until later.

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Facebook/WhatsApp and Privacy

Online Issues

We have all heard that Facebook is acquiring WhatsApp to expand their reach into the world of Social Media.

But, here’s an issue we probably didn’t think of:  WhatApp created a user base that is based on their commitment to never use the user data for advertising revenue. Now that’s a problem because that’s exactly what Facebook does with its own users.

As a result of this awareness, the Federal Trade Commission has been urged to investigate this purchase by Facebook and block the acquisition until the privacy issues are resolved.

With all the privacy issues that have been revealed in the past year, this is a real concern to many people online. For more information, read the TechNow article.


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Thumper’s Mother said….

Online Issues, ORM, Reputation Management

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I am a great believer in this philosophy, especially when it comes to the Internet. I have long said that unlike gravity, what goes up on the Internet will never come down.

Recently I posted a simple comment on Facebook that I was going to the Rib Cookoff and suggested that anyone else going might want to stop by a booth selling a product I very much support and was being sold by my friends. Someone found it necessary to make a snide, rude comment that held no real value to the reader and potentially impacted the business opportunities of this business. Luckily in Facebook you can delete comments like this, but had I not noticed that comment, it would have served to prevent people from finding out about this terrific product.

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Images and copyright infringement

Online Issues, Web Design, web development

Most people who are unfamiliar with copyright infringement issues and laws will pull an image off the Internet by Googling a subject and clicking on the images filter at the top of the page. When they find a picture that works perfectly for their needs, they simply download it.

What they don’t realize, however, is that every image taken or created in the United States, as well as most other countries, is owned and considered to be copyright-protected by the artist. This means that if the owner of that image chooses to, they can sue you for copyright infringement.

Often website owners take extra measures to protect their images and this makes it necessary for you to take care not to grab the wrong image — the one that will get you sued.

Don Crowther ( has written a great article about how to both protect your images from unwanted downloads and how to find free and legal images that won’t violate the artist’s creative rights.

In the article, he explains how the website,, provides licensing agreements clearly outlining what rights an artist may assign to his work and what the restrictions and allowances are for the image you want to use.

Crowther describes how to find good images with licensing rights assigned and explained by using Flickr’s advanced search function to seek Creative Commons-licensed images. Creative Commons is a website that offers free licensing agreements that you can use on your website stating the restrictions and parameters of usage for that photo or other work found online. When a license and the rights are clearly associated with the work, the legal system will support that artist should their rights be violated.

We have recently learned a very valuable lesson in this regard. Over six years ago, I was asked by my client to create four websites to represent their four sister-businesses.  The client wanted the sites to be different, yet complementary to each other.  Since four sites were being created at the same time, we chose to use a subcontractor for the base design while we would do the content management.

Because the subcontractor was a referral from a trusted associate, I did not think I had to be concerned about the copyrights on images used for the project. The sites were completed, the client was satisfied, and the project completed.  All seemed to be good.

But wait! Three months ago I received a call from the client — the sites were still up and running — informing me that they had received a call from Getty Images who was notifying them that they had Getty images on two of their websites that had not been paid for and as a result were in violation of the artists’ rights.  To the tune of $875/per website.

After some negotiation with Getty, I managed to get the settlement amount reduced to $675 per site.  Of course, this is our responsibility, not the client’s and we agreed to pay the bill.  We assured both Getty and our client that we did not know about the infringement, nor would we have willingly used these images without paying for the license to use these images on the website.

Two lessons here:  1) if you use a subcontractor, be sure that you are aware of the source of any artwork used by them for the work and 2) be prepared to step up to the plate and take responsibility should this situation unknowingly occur.  Even though it was the subcontractor who illegally used these images, there was never a question that we were the company contracted to do the project and it was up to us to make situation good again.

You can prevent this major headache by exercising strong control over the creative used by your subcontractors.  Frankly, we feel fortunate to have avoided a worse situation with the settlement we managed.

For further detailed information check out on Don Crowther’s site.


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The state of the Internet

Internet Consulting, Online Issues

This is a terrific post on the various elements of the Internet as it stands today. It was designed and animated by Jess Thomas a week ago for a lecture at AIGA Baltimore in February 2010. Thanks to Jess for this great visual explanation of where we stand on the many facets of the world wide web.

JESS3 / The State of The Internet from Jesse Thomas on Vimeo.



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Managing your Internet presence after death

Internet Consulting, Online Issues

Something most people don’t think of as they expand their online presence is:  After I die, what do I want to happen?  This is an interesting question.  With this new service, you can make your own death announcements and choose other options for your websites, your social media and those photos, etc. that you leave behind.

Check it out:


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Pay attention to the FTC’s new rules

Internet Marketing, Online Issues

As of December 1st, the new FTC regulations came into effect and these regulations will directly affect you if you sell products online.  The FTC guidelines are online now and you will want to read and understand how these guides govern endorsements and testimonials affect bloggers and website claims.

Clearly, testimonials can help bolster your product and service advertisements.  But take care that when using testimonials that convey an experience with a product or service that the claim being made is provable — that is, simple disclaimers that state “results are not typical” will not be enough to satisfy the FTC Act.

Additionally, material connections between advertisers and endorsers must be disclosed.  That is, the post of a blogger who endorses a product and also receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement and the connection must be disclosed.  Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to findings from a research organization that was sponsored by the company, this relationship must be disclosed.

Even celebrity endorsements are affected by the new FTC Act.  Now both the advertiser and the endorser may be liable for false or unsubstantiated claims made in the endorsement or for not disclosing material connections between the advertiser and the endorser.

The FTC provides a 12-page FTC Guide that outlines the new regulations and give clear examples that will help you comply with the new FTC Act.  It would be a good idea to take the time to read this document as it may affect how the FTC views your online presence.

Bloggers and forum managers may have difficulty with this new Act if they allow comments to their postings or aren’t careful watching forum participants.  An example offered in the guide tells of a discussion about a particular MP3 music download technology that is the focus for several posters and one of the posters is an employee of a manufacturer of products under discussion.  The FTC Guide states, “Knowledge of this poster’s employment likely would affect the weight or credibility of his endorsement.  Therefore, the poster should clearly and conspicuously disclose her relationship to he manufacturer to member and readers of the message board.”

The problem is that a blogger or forum monitor may have difficulty identifying an anonymous poster’s background and connection to the product’s manufacturer.  The burden, then, in the example given seems to be on the poster to make the proper disclosures.  Will this happen?  I’m not convinced that it would — and if not, what are the consequences.

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Beware of “Twilight” scam

malware, Online Issues

Don’t get bitten by the “New Moon” movie download. With the Twilight craze in full swing, fans are being baited with the promise to watch the movie for free. What really happens is that viewers get more than they bargained for—malware installed on their computer.

Remember the old saying, “If it sounds to good to be true, then it probably is”. Pirated content is never good for anybody.

Read more at PC World.


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Trash that domain renewal notice!

Online Issues

If you own some domain names or have an active website, chances are you’ve received a letter in the mail telling you that you need to renew your domain or else it will be lost and snapped up by someone else. This is a very common Domain Registration Scam where one registrar tries to steal business away from another and it can be very misleading to consumers.

What is a domain registration scam?
If you own a domain name, then you probably know that you usually register them for years at a time. When the registration is expiring, you need to renew your domain name otherwise someone could very well snap it up from under you. As a website owner, your domain name represents your online busines and your domain is your online identity and very important to you.

There are countless companies online considered “domain registrars,” which means you can go through them to officially register a domain name. AON Technologies, TuCows, Network Solutions and GoDaddy are such just companies. With all the competition, some less reputable companies resort to fraudulent means to trick one registrar’s customers into switching over to them. The most common way of doing this is by sending that customer an invoice that scares them into renewing earlier than they need to and often at very high prices.

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