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Privacy & Security for the Internet of Things

Newsflash:  Gerry Elman will be a keynote speaker on this subject at the CIO Government Technology Conference in Philadelphia June 22, 2017.   Location: The Pyramid Club. (Early bird registration fee: $300.)

On December 8, 2016, Gerry Elman gave a presentation on Privacy and Security for the Internet of Things.  As new products and services are designed, innovators will need to build-in security from the outset and consider the privacy implications of the data derived from them.  Gerry shared the very latest information on the subject (including some major developments from just days prior) as well as best practices for businesses and consumers.

To download the slideshow, please complete the form below, and then click on the link that appears.

Please join us at the next meeting of TriState.IoT.

Download Gerry’s presentation on Privacy and Security for the Internet of Things

Smart devices are rapidly changing our privacy and security. Download this slideshow presentation by Gerry Elman to learn more about how the "Internet of Things" affects businesses and individuals. He recommends best practices to follow and risks to guard against.

To download this presentation, please complete the form below to provide or update your contact information. Then you'll see a link immediately below, which you can click on to download a digital copy of the presentation in PDF format. We'll add you to our mailing list to share information about events and other news which we think would be of interest.

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To send a message, please use the following box. Keep in mind that no attorney-client relationship is created through this communication, and this communication is not confidential. For a confidential consultation, please call us at (610) 892-9942.

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Also see further info about Gerry’s presentation at the IFAI Expo in New Orleans, September 26-28, 2017, and sign up for a one-on-one Mentor Meeting.

“The Glacier is Too Cold” – Protecting Your Right to Complain

Photo credit: <a href="http://foter.com/re/4be122">Foter.com</a>

Photo credit: Foter.com

Can a business prevent an unreasonable customer from posting a negative (and unfair) online review to Yelp, Facebook, Amazon, or other online platform? For example, a reviewer wrote, “Do Not Camp Anywhere Near Here – You Will Freeze” when posting a one-star TripAdvisor review of the Columbia Ice Field in Canada.* Yes, that’s right – the reviewer was upset that the ice field was too cold. You just can’t please some people…

A client recently asked me to include a non-disparagement clause in his customer agreement. He was concerned that a customer might violate the agreement but threaten to post a negative online review if his company didn’t refund their money or otherwise accede to the customer’s demands. A negative (and false) online review seen by enough potential customers could seriously damage his business. How should I reply?

My gut reaction was to say no. Period, the end. First, it’s not great business to censor your customers. Second, it was likely unenforceable as a practical matter, even if it was legally proper. Third… something tugged at my memory. That something was the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016.

On December 14, 2016, President Obama signed into law the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 (“CRFA”). In a rare moment of bipartisanship, a bitterly divided Congress joined together to tackle the issue of negative online reviews. The issue was that businesses had started to use non-disparagement or “gag” provisions to prevent customers from posting negative online reviews, even if those reviews were accurate. These are two examples cited by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce:

  • Online retailer KlearGear demanded that a customer remove a negative online review from ripoffreport.com or face a penalty of $3,500 for violating the retailer’s gag clause. After being threatened by a collection agency, the customer sued and was awarded $306,750 in damages.
  • Roca Labs sold a dietary supplement with the creative name of “Gastric Bypass NO Surgery” priced at $480 for a three-to-four month supply). The FTC alleged that, “Unfortunately for consumers, Defendants are simply selling common, dietary fibers with exaggerated claims at a grossly inflated cost. Their weight-loss claims lack any scientific basis, and are often flat out false.” Worse, Roca Labs included a “gag” clause barring customers from writing any negative reviews about the product, with a penalty of having to pay the “full price” of $1,580. Essentially, customers would be fined $1,100 for writing negative – even if truthful – reviews about the product.

To guard against such abuses, Congress passed the CRFA. The act addresses terms in a “form contract” (a standardized contract that doesn’t give the customer a meaningful opportunity to negotiate the terms) and prohibits the following:

  • Imposing a fee or penalty against a party that writes a negative review
  • Requiring a party to assign his or her intellectual property rights in a review back to the seller. Some creative companies used such provisions to obtain an automatic assignment of the copyright for the negative review, and then used the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to demand that social media platforms take down the negative reviews. It was very creative and very sneaky, and the practice is now very illegal.

There are important exceptions. Companies can still remove content from their own websites if such content is irrelevant to the goods or services provided, is harassing/abusive, is clearly false or misleading, or contains the personal information or likeness of another person. Companies can protect their trade secrets and other confidential information, and can put restrictions on the creation of photos or video of their products by the company’s employees or contractors. Perhaps most importantly, the CRFA does not apply to employer-employee or independent contractor contracts, which often include non-disparagement clauses.

Violations of the CRFA are considered deceptive trade practices, and the FTC and state attorneys general therefore have jurisdiction over those who violate the CRFA. Remedies can include restraining orders and heavy fines.

The good news is that the CRFA is a significant step in protecting consumers’ rights to complain – even if that complaint is unreasonable. The bad news is that companies can still find creative ways to “inspire” their customers. Remember Roca Labs? The company is still very much in business, and they promise a “100% money back guarantee” for customers who provide “inspiring” video and photographic testimonials about their weight loss experience – but only if “Don approves you to be a valuable inspiring member.”** So don’t start trusting every review you read just because of the CRFA. If a client asks whether they can ban negative reviews, the answer is a resounding no – but they can still reward customers for posting positive reviews (though appropriate disclosures would be required).

My client appreciated my advice, and I included provisions in the contract which should lead to satisfied customers who don’t feel the need to post negative reviews online. Feel free to call me with any questions. You can now post any (truthful) review that you want about this article. Enjoy, and please be kind…

Josh Waterston, Esq.
Elman Technology Law, P.C.

* TripAdvisor review accessed on June 14, 2017 at https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g154918-d3337446-r304539771-Columbia_Ice_Field-Jasper_Jasper_National_Park_Alberta.html#CHECK_RATES_CONT.

** Roca Labs website accessed on June 15, 2017 at https://rocalabs.com/about/how-much-does-roca-labs-cost/cashback/

Will your underwear talk to the internet?

Will your underwear become a node on the Internet of Things? Gerry Elman attended the Greater Philadelphia Smart Fabrics Conference at Drexel University’s Center for Functional Fabrics on May 9, 2017.  He enjoyed learning more about the Smart Belly Band for pregnant moms, developed in the Shima Seiki Haute Technology Lab at Drexel’s ExCITe Center.

Gerry continues to hone his cutting-edge expertise on the implications of intellectual property and cybersecurity law for this burgeoning field of technological development.

Drexel's Smart Belly Band shown at Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum

Drexel’s Smart Belly Band shown at Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum







As a speaker and mentor at the Advanced Textiles Conference of IFAI Expo in New Orleans this September, he will be sharing that expertise with entrepreneurs shaping the future.

Interested in Smart Cities?

On June 9-10, 2017, Gerry will participate in the Comcast/machineQ Smart City Hackathon in Center City Philadelphia, helping to build an Internet of Things solution for “smarter,” more responsive city infrastructure.  This includes hands-on experience with the long range wireless technology being rolled out by Comcast subsidiary machineQ.

If you’re envisioning developments in this field, make plans to join him at one of these events. Or send a note via the Contact Us form on this page.

Also keep in mind that Gerry co-hosts the TriState.IoT Meetup, which draws participants from Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.  In-person meetings are typically in the vicinity of Radnor and Paoli, PA, and some are webinars.  For ongoing updates on their doings, join the Meetup for free.

Gerry Elman spoke on Privacy & Security for the Internet of Things Dec. 8, 2016

IoT – Privacy and Security (regulatory aspects)- Gerry Elman (Technology Lawyer)

Thursday, Dec 8, 2016, 6:30 PM

Paoli Library
18 Darby Rd Paoli, PA

20 IoTian Went

Hello IoTians!You are invited to an educational session involving legal/regulatory aspects of IoT Privacy and Security.The issues are as current as recent headlines:Was your voting machine hacked???  Presidential candidate Jill Stein has asked for a recount in Pennsylvania.On October 21, 2016, consumers were unable to reach Netflix, Twitter, CN…

Check out this Meetup →

The issues are as current as recent headlines:

  • Was your voting machine hacked??? Presidential candidate Jill Stein has asked for a recount in Pennsylvania.
  • On October 21, 2016, consumers were unable to reach Netflix, Twitter, CNN and several other well-known websites. This was because Dyn, a provider of core Internet services for these sites, was in the midst of a global Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack via a botnet composed of malware-infected IoT devices such as DVRs, home monitors, and webcams.
  • How private are your personal details when your Fitbit or Apple Watch broadcasts your heart rate and GPS location?
  • Is our safety and privacy being sacrificed during the rapid spread of Internet-connected gizmos such as TV sets, security cameras, thermostats, refrigerators and even front door locks?

Join us to explore these issues, and to learn about efforts to address them by Congress, government agencies, and private standards-development companies such as UL.

Click here for the event’s web page.

To download Gerry’s slideshow, click here and fill in the form.



Thank You to TPNG for hosting Gerry Elman and Joshua Waterston’s presentation “Cybersecurity Technical and Legal Challenges (You Can’t Just Check the Box)”

On September 22, 2016, Elman Technology Law attorneys Gerry Elman and Joshua Waterston gave a presentation on “Cybersecurity Technical and Legal Challenges (You Can’t Just Check the Box)” to the Philadelphia chapter of the Technology Professionals Networking Group (TPNG).  Attendees included Information Technology professionals of varied interests and backgrounds – entrepreneurs, directors, consultants, analysts and more.  The presentation focused on the importance of organizations having a proactive and holistic approach to cybersecurity, rather than on a reactive and top-down approach.  A cost-effective method is to request a Cybersecurity Legal Audit, which Elman Technology Law offers as a service to clients.  Gerry, Josh and the attendees shared their individual experiences and discussed potential problems and solutions to thorny legal and logistical cybersecurity problems.  The presentation was well-received and Gerry and Josh are grateful to TPNG’s fine leadership for the opportunity.

For a free copy of our presentation (or to drop us a line), click here.  To find out more about how Elman Technology Law can protect your company, call us at 610-892-9942.

About TPNG:

The TPNG of Philadelphia has been in existence since 2003.  Through TPNG, IT professionals support one another through generosity and camaraderie.  The TPNG is a terrific opportunity to share business contacts, technology resources, and career information with like-minded professionals.  Click here for TPNG’s LinkedIn page.

Elman Technology Law, P.C. is a boutique law firm located in Media, Pennsylvania. Our cybersecurity practice is an outgrowth of our extensive experience with intellectual property (patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, licensing, and various protective agreements), and helping clients navigate the ever-changing landscape of online business law.

Request a free copy of Gerry Elman and Joshua Waterston’s presentation “Cybersecurity Technical and Legal Challenges (You Can’t Just Check the Box)” / Contact Us

We are pleased to offer you a complimentary copy of our presentation “Cybersecurity Technical and Legal Challenges (You Can’t Just Check the Box)”. Please complete the form below to provide or update your contact information. You'll then be able to download a free copy of the presentation in PDF format by clicking on the link provided below.

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2016 Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Rating of AV Preeminent® Gerry Elman has received a 2016 Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Rating of AV Preeminent®
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