Famous general counsel gathered to discuss the issues of the day at GC West at the Fairmont Hotel, an event put on by our beneficent corporate parent ALM. Relatively new Facebook GC and former Bush White House lawyer Ted Ullyot, looking remarkably un-Facebooky in a crisp jacket shirt and tie and impeccably combed hair, was there to talk about Internet privacy. Facebook, of course has faced its share of privacy “challenges,” including the infamous targeted advertising program Beacon that creeped everyone out and led to litigation and a settlement.
But Ullyot said that non-Internet companies are more likely to get in trouble with privacy these days. He spoke at length about the FTC case against Sears (yes, the company that sells you washing machines) for spying on customers' Internet surfing with a software download. Ullyot explained that although users agreed to the terms and conditions, the box where they could be read was only big enough for 10 lines and the clause about spying was somewhere around line 73.
At this point, James Basile, a fellow panelist and former colleague of Ullyot’s at Kirkland & Ellis, jumped in to say that although the Sears case was widely publicized, the FTC is actually quite active in cracking down on companies that are invading the privacy of web surfers. Comparing the FTC to Tony Soprano, who quietly comes around demanding payment, he said these enforcement efforts rarely reach the public.
— Zusha Elinson