September 2017

Even when an employee is terminated for cause, it can be difficult to fight an employee’s claim for unemployment benefits. A September 2017 ruling from the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania may provide employers a new route to combat meritless unemployment claims. In most states, an unemployed individual may file for and receive unemployment benefits if he is out of work due to no fault of his own.  The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently affirmed a decision by the state’s unemployment board to deny a former painter at a metal company unemployment benefits because of a social media post he left after his departure from the company.

The use of WhatsApp without the declaration of consent from every person in the user’s address book directory is deemed to be inadmissible in a recent decision by the family law department of a German lower federal court (AG Bad Hersfeld, 15.05.2017 – F 120/17 EASO).

The court held that the mother of an 11-year-old boy had to ensure and constantly control that all of her son’s phone contacts had given their consent to the transfer of their contact data to WhatsApp.

Human interactions with technology

In the past few years, the use of social media has increased rapidly. A key feature of social media platforms and social media apps is the ability to interact with other people in ways that were not thought possible in previous generations.  With the click of a button, someone from the other side of the world can appear on a screen in front of you.

Technology and social media have not just given rise to platforms that facilitate human-to-human interaction: recently, advancements in technology have led to a rise in a new type of social relationship: human-to-computer interaction.  The interactions we have with technology are not just based on user input.  Technology has learned to respond to people.  It can communicate with us.  It can perform tasks.  It can learn our habits and tailor services to our needs.  It can learn to identify us.  It can assemble information and provide solutions to problems.  This ‘artificial intelligence’ (or AI) has become a key component in our daily social interactions.

On September 7, 2017, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it had entered into a proposed consent agreement with two individuals and their company that allegedly ran an online gaming community website that allowed users to gamble virtual currency.  According to the FTC complaint, the two individuals promoted the gaming site and not only failed to disclose their ownership interest in the site or that they were playing with company money, but they also paid other social media influencers between $2,500 and $55,000 to promote the site.

As we had previously written, in the Spring of 2017, the FTC issued 90 letters to social media influencers and the companies they may have endorsed on Instagram.  The letters reminded the recipients that the FTC expects any “material connection” between an influencer and the provider/service/company to be conspicuously disclosed.  A “material connection” is a “a connection that might affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the endorsement,” which can be a direct payment, free products, an ownership interested in the company, or even a family connection to the company.  As part of the FTC’s September 7 announcement, the FTC also stated that it sent warning letters to 21 social media influencers who had received the Spring letters.  (The FTC did not disclose the names of the influencers or companies that received the warning letters.)  Consequently, the FTC may be bringing additional actions in this area.