This week: the far-reaching consequences of overturning Roe, Amazon's recent spate of firings, and TurboTax's New York settlement. Plus, international chess, a return to the office, and Musk's latest suit.
Following a leaked draft of the US Supreme Court's implied ruling to overturn Roe V Wade, new attention has been placed on abortion rights and accompanying privacy. Fertility tracking apps (tools that allow people to track their menstrual cycle) have now become a point of concern for privacy and reproductive rights activists as user data may be used to expose women who have recently had an abortion.
“We’ve seen cases where women’s Google searches, unencrypted communications, emails, and other types of messages — like Facebook Messenger — were used against them, and social media posts,” Cynthia Conti-Cook, a technology fellow with the Ford Foundation's gender, racial, and ethnic justice team, told The Verge.
In 2021, the FTC found cycle tracking app Flo shared user data with Facebook and other third parties after promising to keep it private, notes Tech Crunch.
“In our view, the FTC should have charged Flo with violating the Health Breach Notification Rule,” Rohit Chopra, a commissioner of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said. “The Health Breach Notification Rule was first issued more than a decade ago, but the explosion in connected health apps make its requirements more important than ever.”
The Health Breach Notification Rule
The rule was passed in 2009 and requires companies to notify customers of personal information breaches, and in cases involving 500 or more people, to notify the media. In recent years, as both health apps and security breaches have skyrocketed, the rule “helps to ensure that entities not covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA] nevertheless face accountability when consumers’ sensitive health information is compromised.”
In the 50-plus years since Roe defined the law, technology has proliferated in such a way as to complicate any attempt to overthrow it. Yet, with that impending reality, Silicon Valley needs to step up and protect the users of its apps.
🎧 What We’re Listening To
This week, we’re listening to Hélène Vogelsinger, a French singer, sound designer, and composer. In what she describes as a modular synth project, her music takes you through a journey of poetic, suspended moments. Vogelsinger’s second studio album, Reminiscence, is described as “a reflection of her inner musical aura,” that closes the gap between the past, present, and future.
More than half a dozen senior managers at Amazon's JFK8 fulfillment warehouse in Staten Island were abruptly fired this week — about a month after the warehouse's employees voted to unionize. According to the New York Times, the firings occurred outside the company's standard review cycle, and some of the managers had even received positive reviews recently, leading many to believe the firings were in direct response to the workers' unionization victory.
“Part of our culture at Amazon is to continually improve, and we believe it’s important to take time to review whether or not we’re doing the best we could be for our team,” an Amazon spokesperson said of the firings.
The Times reports that the managers may have been involved in anti-union efforts on the part of Amazon and thus were fired. Amazon has fired several other non-management employees at the warehouse in recent weeks, but some filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board to be reinstated at their job.
A National Platform
President Biden met with Christian Smalls, the organizer of the Amazon Labor Union at JFK8, along with other union activists to highlight their efforts, reports Engadget. “These folks are inspiring a movement of workers across the country to fight for the pay and benefits they deserve,” the President tweeted. Smalls then appeared before the US Senate Budget Committee to call for an end to federal contracts with Amazon so long as they continue illegal union-busting activities, says CNBC.
For a company that’s one of the biggest private employers in the United States, Amazon’s handling of the burgeoning union within its ranks has been remarkably petty and antagonistic. Of course, that might be one of the reasons for their extremely high employee turnover rate.
📆 Save The Date
Thursday, May 26, 3 pm ET | How Non-JDs Can Save You Time & Money
This goes out to all our paralegals, legal ops, contract managers, and many more non-JD legal positions. Legal doesn’t just mean attorneys, but so many legal teams are missing out on their value-add. Join our own Lauren O’Neill as she moderates a discussion with Trina Walker (Director, Legal Change, Trinet), Kelsey Copeland (Sr Corporate Counsel, NASCAR), and Eric Lentell (Deputy General Counsel, Archer) on which non-attorney roles are best for your legal team, and how to get the buy-in for them.
It might not be the refund some Americans were expecting, but $141 million will be heading back to taxpayers. The money is part of a settlement Intuit, the company behind popular tax-filing software TurboTax, has reached with the New York Attorney General over misleading ads for free tax services. As PBS notes, the AG's case was sparked by ProPublica's 2019 report that “the company was using deceptive tactics to steer low-income tax filers away from the federally supported free services for which they qualified — and toward its own commercial products, instead.”
“Intuit cheated millions of low-income Americans out of free tax filing services they were entitled to,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “This agreement should serve as a reminder to companies large and small that engaging in these deceptive marketing ploys is illegal.”
According to ProPublica, Intuit executives were aware of their misleading ads, saying: “The website lists Free, Free, Free and the customers are assuming their return will be free … customers are getting upset.”
The Pay Out
The settlement covers tax years 2016-2018 and will reimburse filers $30 per year they were entitled to free tax services. Intuit has publicly justified its tactics by stating that customers are empowered “to take control of their financial lives, which includes being in charge of their own tax preparation.”
Intuit’s settlement in New York closes just one case the company faces for its misleading practices. It’ll be interesting to see how the tax services juggernaut moves ahead with the federal suit it faces.
😂 Meme Of The Week
When Legal comes back from lunch…
📤 What Else We're Forwarding
Checkmate: The war in Ukraine has created some unintended consequences, including a ban of Russian players from the world's most popular chess website, Chess.com, notes The Hustle. However, there's been no noticeable decline in Russian players on the site as they're circumventing the ban with VPNs.
Office Politics: The end of remote work and a return to the office (even in a hybrid form) is causing tension among Big Law firms, says Law.com. The site notes that firms requiring three days or more a week at the office are seeing their talent quit.
Tweet Suit: Some shareholders are revolting against Elon Musk's $44 billion takeover of Twitter, reports The Guardian. The Orlando Police Pension Fund's suit claims Delaware law forbids the quick merger based on agreements Musk had with other large shareholders.
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See ya next week!