Top Legal Issues Facing Marketers in 2017

Numerous legal and regulatory challenges will vex marketers in 2017. Brexit and the U.S. presidential election aside, to say 2016 was one of the most tumultuous and unpredictable years in history was an understatement. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) doubled down on its enforcement of the Testimonial and Endorsement Guides, brought its first native advertising case, and continued to target privacy promises and health related claims in the mobile app space. The year ended with news that the Justice Department was investigating possible price fixing activity among advertising agencies.

Consumer Privacy For marketers, it is increasingly critical to focus on protecting the privacy of consumers and ensuring transparency in how consumer data is used. In 2016, the popularity of the Pokémon GO app—the game was downloaded approximately 7.5 million times in the United States alone during its first week of release—prompted a letter from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) with questions about the company’s privacy policy and use of consumer data. In a similar example, legislators pressed the makers of various Internet of Things products about privacy issues, and expressed concern about vulnerability of consumers to identity theft and data breaches, particularly in the context of children’s “smart” toys. Privacy and data security remain a priority for the FTC, with the agency bringing a host of actions ranging from a case against a mobile app company that allegedly deceptively tracked the locations of hundreds of millions of consumers (including children) to serve them geo-targeted advertising in contravention of its privacy policy to a settlement with a dating site that failed to protect the account and profile information of 36 million users. Advertisers may also have a new regulator to worry about in 2017 after the Federal Communications Commission passed new privacy rules that require Internet Service Providers to obtain opt-in consent before sensitive data (defined to include browsing and app usage history) can be collected and used for ad targeting purposes. The ad industry has vowed to fight the rules – characterizing them as “unprecedented, misguided, counterproductive, and potentially extremely harmful” – although the shift in administration could result in a change of course. In the realm of consumer class actions, cases based on data breaches continue to be a thorn in the side of advertisers. Courts provided hope for plaintiffs with rulings like the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ reversal of dismissal in a data breach suit against P.F. Chang’s. It held that the risk of future fraudulent charges and identity theft created by the company’s breach constituted a “certainly impending” future injury to establish standing, paving the way for future suits.

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Source: Chief Marketer