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Court requires Glassdoor reveal identities of anonymous users

(BUSINESS NEWS) Glassdoor is being forced to identify anonymous reviewers in ongoing grand jury case and their fight may already be over.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals has recently denied Glassdoor Inc’s motion to quash a grand jury subpoena requiring the company to reveal identifying information about anonymous users who wrote reviews about a separate company.

Although reviews are anonymous, users on Glassdoor must provide an email address, which does not appear on the site. Before the company posts a review, the author is notified that while rare, their information may be disclosed if required by law. However, Glassdoor’s Privacy Policy also notes that the company will “take appropriate action to protect the anonymity” of users.

Glassdoor argued that complying with the subpoena would violate anonymous speech rights and violate privacy. The Court of Appeals was like, yeah whatevs, this is about a federal case so give up those names.

The subpoena is in relation to an ongoing investigation by an Arizona Federal Grand Jury. Allegedly, a government contractor that administers two Department of Veteran’s Affairs programs committed wire fraud and misused government funds. As of March 2017, 125 reviews have been posted on Glassdoor by current and former employees of the contractor.

On March 6, 2017, Glassdoor was served with a subpoena ordering the company to provide identifying information about the reviewers, including emails, IP addresses, and billing information.

Glassdoor argued this request violated their user’s First Amendment rights, and the government agreed to limit the scope of its request to eight crucial reviews.

The government noted this information would aid the investigation, enabling them to contact the reviewers as third party witnesses to business practices related to the case. However, Glassdoor was still not cool with this, and filed a motion to suppress the subpoena.

The district court denied the motion, upholding their stance that since the investigation was not being conducted in bad faith, the company must respond under pain of contempt. Basically, Glassdoor is going to get charged $5000 a day until they comply.

Most of the argument stems from Supreme Court Case Branzburg v. Hayes, which stipulates that reporters generally cannot refuse to testify in a criminal grand jury. Branzburg v. Hayes combined three separate cases regarding journalists reporting illicit activity, but protecting their sources from identification.

Glassdoor argues since they are not a news organization, this case should not apply to their users. The court shot back that although Glassdoor isn’t technically in the news business, just like the reporters in Branzburg, the company publishes information from sources it agrees not to identify.

While Glassdoor’s commitment to protecting its users is noble, since review posters are notified before each posting their info may be shared, Glassdoor may not have the same grounds of arguing promised anonymity as the reporters in the Branzburg case. Plus, since the investigation is in good faith, the government contends that the company has no reason for resistance.

Glassdoor insists the court instead focus on the results of Bursey v. United States, a case regarding the First Amendment rights of groups considered subversive by the government. Bursey requires government investigations to satisfy a three-part “compelling interest” test to proceed.

The Court of Appeals argues that since Glassdoor users aren’t really a special community group, the precedent set in Branzburg about investigations in good faith more accurately applies to the current case.

Since the government is not investigating Glassdoor itself, but rather attempting to further the grand jury case with information from users, Glassdoor’s motion to quash the subpoena was denied.

The eight users whose reviews were flagged will likely have to testify in the case, and Glassdoor cannot further refuse to identify the reviewers.

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. DeeJayH

    November 15, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    “yeah whatever?” & “not cool with this?” until reading those I had no idea using GENIUS in your name was for comedic effect. #kudos. Can not believe that went right over my head

    • Lani Rosales

      November 15, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      From time to time, our writers slide in little jokes or silly notes – just making sure you’re all paying attention! 😉 #GoodEye

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Former Budweiser exec says marijuana is the new craft beer

(BUSINESS NEWS) In light of a growing consumer demand and more states decriminalizing and legalizing, “Big Booze” casts sights on burgeoning marijuana market.

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Imagine all the Instagram photos. Imagine all those new hashtags (no pun intended).

A carefully placed pre-rolled joint next to a latte with a heart drawn in the foam, an iridescent glass pipe freshly filled held out at arm’s length with a mountain and a sunset at the horizon, and different strains or arrays of edibles displayed next to their branded packaging.

Weed: “It’s the new craft beer,” according to former marketing exec for Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser beer, Chris Burggraeve.

Since leaving his position as Chief Marketing Officer, Burggraeve has begun investing in the marijuana industry, recently joining the advisory board of greenRush Group, the San Francisco-based startup that aims to be the “Amazon of weed” as the largest technology platform in the cannabis industry.

In addition to greenRush, Burggraeve also co-founded Toast, a company that makes luxury pre-rolled joints.

Research firm Cowen and Company released their findings last year that in legalized states such as Washington, Colorado, and Oregon, people have begun laying off the sauce as beer sales took a noticeable dip below the national average. According to a Gallup poll released last month, 64 percent of the U.S. population now wants to lift the federal ban on marijuana.

It was only a matter of time before those in the alcohol industry began to take notice. Just last month, Constellation Brands, the beer distributor who owns Corona and Svedka vodka, bought a 9.9 percent stake in Canopy Growth Corporation, an acquisition in anticipation of nationwide legalization of marijuana in the U.S.

Big companies like Amazon, however, have shied away from taking such leaps in the industry due to the current federal ban.

“This is one of the fastest-growing categories globally,” Burggraeve told Bloomberg. “When consumers want something, you ignore it at your peril,” also noting that in order for booze companies to stay relevant in some fashion, they will have to conform to cannabis, whether they want to or not.

“The same way that craft beer started and, for the longest time, was ignored and then exploded, there’s no reason why the same thing wouldn’t happen in this space,” Burggraeve added, also noting that his colleagues should follow suit lest be left in the dust. “There will be part supplementing and part complementing. The jury is out on how and where that will happen.”

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FCC nixed a 40+ year old rule blocking broadcast media mergers

(BUSINESS NEWS) The FCC is on a tear this month, this time dismantling a decades-old rule that supporters and critics are butting heads over.

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In a 3-to-2 vote last week, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) rolled back media merger rules that have been around since the 1970s. These 42-year-old regulations prevented a handful of companies from owning the majority of media outlets in a market.

One now defunct rule stipulated TV stations in the same market couldn’t merge if the combo would mean there were fewer than eight independently owned stations as a result. Another rule prohibited a single company in a market from simultaneously owning a TV station and a daily newspaper.

Additionally, the original stipulations restricted how many TV and radio stations a company could own in a single media market. The FCC also approved Next Gen TV, a new broadcast standard expected to improve targeted ads as well as higher quality video and audio for on-air television.

Further easing media creation, last month, the FCC voted to nix a rule that required broadcasters to have a physical studio in their licensed market.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says these long-standing rules have made it difficult for smaller outlets like websites, blogs, and podcasts to thrive in a media landscape vastly different from the one that originated the regulations.

“Few of the FCC’s rules are staler than our broadcast ownership regulations,” Pai said. By eliminating them, he said, “this agency finally drags its broadcast ownership rules to the digital age.”

The National Association of Broadcasters agreed with Pai, welcoming the changes. In a statement they noted the old rules “weakened the newspaper industry, cost journalism jobs and forced local broadcast stations onto unequal footing with our national pay-TV and radio competitors.”

However, opponents argue this change will lead to media monoliths, with even fewer companies controlling most media outlets. “Instead of engaging in thoughtful reform,” said Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, “this agency sets its most basic values on fire.”

Predictably, shortly after the vote, Comcast hit up 21st Century Fox all like, “Hey let us buy those parts of your company Disney wanted earlier this year but now we can have it because the FCC said so, I hope.” Previously Fox was talking about selling most of the company to Disney but keeping sports and news. Although the talks aren’t ongoing, apparently there may still be a Disney/Fox deal on the table. Verizon also noted interest in acquiring portions of Fox as well to provide mobile streaming content.

Senate Democrats called on the FCC inspector general to launch a probe regarding impartiality of the vote.

They cited concerns about how the deregulation may benefit conservative broadcasting company Sinclair, who expressed interest in buying Tribune Media for $3.9 billion dollars. This purchase could now be possible without Sinclair selling off their other stations to receive FCC approval.

“This merger would never have been possible without a series of actions to overturn decades-long, settled legal precedent by Chairman Pai,” wrote 14 lawmakers in a letter. Sinclair declined to comment, while Pai merely assured these changes “will open the door to pro-competitive combinations that will strengthen local voices.”

Guess we’ll just have to see how things go when Disney and like three other companies own everything.

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Apple under fire for alleged patent infringement

(BUSINESS NEWS) Apple is again under fire for patent infringement, this one appearing to be less patent-trolly than some other claims.

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Apple is once again being investigated by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) for a possible patent infringement.

The investigation is looking into a complaint from Aqua Connect Inc and its subsidiary, Strategic Technology Partners. They are Nevada-based companies with headquarters in Orange, California, filing their complaint with the US District Court for the Central District of California.

Apple is already being investigated by USITC because Qualcomm claims that the company is using in violation of its patent by using Qualcomm’s modems to power devices like iPhones.

Earlier this month, Apple was also sued by an Israeli company, Corephotonics, which claims that the tech giant has used its patented designs in the dual lens cameras on iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 8 Plus.

Likewise, Aqua Connect and Strategic Technology Partners claim that the company is using their patented technology without consent for features like screen-sharing and remote desktop on some MAC computers, iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Apple TVs.

It appears that the USITC investigation will look into these claims, but may take a broader view and look into other possible patent infringements.

“Initially, our product had Apple’s full support. But years later, [they] built our technology into its macOS and iOS operating systems without our permission,” says Ronnie Exley, CEO of Aqua Connect.

Apparently, Aqua Connect created the first remote desktop for Mac computers in 2008, but later they incorporated that technology into new products without permission from Aqua Connect. “These lawsuits seek to stop Apple from continuing to use our technology in their macOS and iOS operating systems,” said Exley in a statement.

Because the USITC has the power to ban the sale of products in the U.S., most companies choose to settle out of court rather than risk such a ban. It remains to be seen how Apple will ultimately respond.

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