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Now that you’ve read the first blog detailing the faux pas of Facebook in regards to how the company mishandled private consumer messages, it is a great time to look at how you can avoid similar mistakes when initiating an email or mobile marketing campaign of your own. The importance of brushing up on compliance concerns as you start to reach out to consumers goes without saying – especially if you don’t have the massive legal backing that companies like Facebook enjoy when dealing with lawsuits and other damaging occurrences.

Avoid the Obvious

The first place to start this discussion is right where it left off in the previous blog post regarding Facebook’s violations of consumer privacy. The easiest lesson to learn, and the best way to stay in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and other regulatory governance, is to avoid illicitly obtaining consumer information, as well as working with agencies that partake in such practices when it comes to setting up an email marketing campaign. If you need more reasons to say no to this type of conduct when engaging in marketing of any type, just know that Facebook isn’t the only organization that has gone a step, or more like a mile, over the line. In 2013, Google also found itself on the wrong side of privacy laws and regulations, leading to backlash and penalties as well.

Ask for Permission

According to the Mobile Marketer, a key part of the SMS or email interaction is to ask for permission. By having a written agreement on record, you can ensure that you avoid penalization under the CAN-SPAM Act, the TCPA, and CASL laws in Canada. In fact, failing to incorporate this step into the marketing process can net fines of up to $1,500 from the government. While $1,500 might not like seem like much of a cost for the ability to spam countless consumers with your message, keep in mind that the little detail that this penalty is per message. That paints the price in an entirely different light.

Give the Consumer a Little Notice Before You Start

Taking it a step further to help expound upon the rules and regulations is this post from Experian. As the title would suggest, what you don’t know when it comes to compliance can definitely hurt you. With that in mind, the next primary regulation centers on offering the consumer a little notice about what the email program entails. This means a clearly defined explanation that entering into such a program comes with messages sent directly to the user via a short-code application. Often, explaining this detail when asking for permission from the user is an effective way to mark off both concerns from your compliance checklist.

On and Off Toggles Are Also Important

Additionally, the other key point from the Experian discussion covers what kind of choices you must give to those who enter into your program. Essentially, having a way for members to opt-in and out of the messaging service must stand as a central part of your operation. For email services specifically, having an unsubscribe link in the footer is a great example of a required opt-out tool. Users must also have access to these toggles at any point in the process, regardless of how you are connecting with them. Otherwise, you can expect penalties and fines from falling out of compliance with the various regulations in the email and SMS marketing world.

Understanding the Legality of a Message

For compliance issues that transcend this type of marketing strategy, like the accusations that stand before Facebook, Performance Marketing Insider suggests simply learning about the legality of messages in general. According to this post, which centers on an interview with Internet legal experts Michael Becker and Richard Newman, there are two key points to take away from this concept. First, text messages share the same legal standing as a phone call, so the same rules apply to both. The second part builds on this and explains that consumers have a personal bubble. Invading this space can occur via unwanted emails, messages and messaging, either by call or text, which occurs far too frequently.

Know the Penalties

All of this information is a lot to process, even for those who are familiar with digital marketing of many forms. To keep everything straight, don’t be afraid to go straight to the source. By reviewing the CAN-SPAM Act, CASL laws, and TCPA rules whenever you have a question, you can ensure the compliance of your marketing plan and avoid the issues other companies, like Google and Facebook, dealt with in the past.

Staying in compliance, especially in the face of the lessons learned from the lawsuit standing against Facebook, is more important now than ever before. To ensure you stick to the rules as you reach out to consumers, remember a couple key regulations that apply to an email campaign. Asking for permission, having the ability to opt-in or out, and giving consumers fair notice over what to expect all start the process. From here, understanding the legality of a message of any kind, as well as knowing the penalties from the source, keeps your campaign safeguarded from serious repercussions.

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Social media giant Facebook finds itself in some hot water with privacy rights groups and activists after reports emerged detailing a potentially major breach of user privacy and practices. While your organization’s messaging operations and marketing initiatives might not operate on the same scale as Facebook, you can be sure that there are plenty of lessons you can learn from how the social network got itself into this predicament. To start, take a moment to review the particulars of the lawsuit and what exactly Facebook did with user messages to draw the ire of plaintiffs Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley.

Allegations of Snooping and Privacy Intrusions

According to an article on the subject from PC World, Facebook faces allegations of sifting through private messages exchanged between users to search out links and other information related to consumer habits and trends. The benefits of such a move are clear to anyone who understands how difficult it is to target and connect with customers via message marketing, or any sort of marketing in general.

By having this window of insight into the lives of the masses, Matthew Campbell and Michael Hurley, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit who claim to speak on behalf of the millions of Facebook faithful, propose that the leading social network then turned your information, as well as the information of the countless others, into a valuable commodity. Such a resource would then help optimize on-site ads and other marketing initiatives for advertising partners in a highly unethical, but potentially effective, manner.

A Fundamental Mistake

Unfortunately for Facebook, if these claims turn out to be true, the company faces some serious backlash from users and privacy rights organizations alike. While every marketing firm or agency wants to have a pulse on its targeted audience, stepping over the boundary and invading personal space is a prime offense that many see as unforgivable. Such a move not only violates the agreement of a company to respect the rights of its users, it also tramples over information privacy laws in the United States and other countries around the world.

The Facebook Rebuttal

While the evidence presented doesn’t paint a pretty picture, Facebook isn’t backing down from the fight. In an effort to defend itself, Facebook representatives released a statement, covered in a report from the Brock Press, that the allegations against the social network have no merit and that the company plans to defend itself vigorously. While this legal response is simply par for the course, it at least shows that Facebook has some sort of plan to push back against the privacy invasion claims. Should legal proceedings come underway, you can bet that the substantial legal team surrounding the interests of the company will need to unveil considerable evidence to the contrary to dismantle such damning claims.

Additionally, the article quotes Internet security expert Graham Cluley, who defends Facebook on this particular issue. Essentially, Mr. Cluley claims that having Facebook scan private messages helps protect the millions of users from spam, illicit links, and destructive malware. However, this doesn’t address the real problem of Facebook taking this content and potentially selling off the information gleaned from these messages to the highest bidder.

Prior Legal Issues and Controversies

Of course, a great legal defense doesn’t cover up the fact that Facebook has been in this position before. Reading an article from the Huffington Post highlights this point in great detail. Over the course of the past several years, the social network has had to defend itself constantly regarding legal concerns. 2011 saw Facebook lose a suit covering the issue of taking and using user information without explicit permission from members of the social network. Additionally, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, settled a case for $65 million that centered on the claim that he stole the idea for this network from his Harvard classmates.

Looking to the Future

While such a move could create major backlash and a potential deterioration of the user base for most organizations, the Brock Press report on the subject closes with a very real statement regarding Facebook’s continued viability. After weathering similar storms and continuing to grow, Facebook just may be one of the few companies that can withstand this issue should it be found guilty of this type of invasion of privacy. However, the potential monetary damages, as well as the damage done to the brand image of the company, should be strong enough to dissuade other organizations from engaging in similarly illicit activities.

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© 2013 Elite Email Inc. Blog Admin