Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott's Michael D. Ecker on Social Networking Site Privacy Concerns for Direct Marketers
Some direct marketers that are concerned about their social media presences in light of consumers' heightened privacy concerns might be sweating more than Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg did when asked about the topic during a recent trade conference. Those companies that are concerned probably want to know what to do, specifically, with their social networking efforts and, perhaps especially, with their Facebook presences.
Enter Michael D. Ecker, a Philadelphia attorney who handles e-commerce issues for clients, among his other duties as a member of the Pittsburgh-based law firm, Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott. Ecker provides his opinion about how marketers should manage their companies' social networking lives, reputations and more.
Target Marketing: How is this Facebook privacy controversy affecting marketers that advertise on the social networking site?
Michael D. Ecker: It's not really a legal issue, per se. It really is an issue of a reputation. … In terms of legal consequences … you have an issue with e-spam. So you can only communicate with people with whom you have a relationship or who have approved a communication. … If you are collecting data on a website whose terms and conditions say, "By the way, we're turning this over to direct marketers and you can expect contacts from people who are affiliated with us who buy this information," then you may well be OK. I think, though, ideally it turns on the issue of the terms and conditions of a particular website, like Facebook. So if a direct marketer is complying with the terms and conditions that Facebook provides to its users, then the direct marketers should be OK. But they need to monitor the developments in terms and conditions so that they can comply with them and not run afoul of things like e-spam.
TM: What should marketers do to ensure Facebook friends know their privacy is protected, for instance, on their pages?
ME: … If the ABC Marketing Company wants to use the information that people post up there, whether it's favorable or unfavorable with respect to a particular product or their participation in a focus group or otherwise, the way that they can communicate that is by simply having a link to how it is they use the information, what steps they take to protect it. I mean, there are both internal policies and procedures that companies can implement to protect the information that's collected, as well as electronic means. But they're doing that through Facebook's server. So there's a limit, I think, as to what Facebook participants can do, other than working with the settings that are available for other people to view what is being posted on that Facebook page.