Outside Legal Counsel PLC

Who is Responsible? Caveat emptor!

For Immediate Release | Mar 21, 2007

In a study completed by Michigan State University, 57 percent of respondents believed it should be the federal government's job to keep the Internet safe for the public.

Of the 557 Internet users surveyed, nearly 67 percent reported being overwhelmed by the complexities of managing their online privacy and security.

Friends, these are troubling numbers.

Government Has Tried, But Has Gotten Nowhere
While the government has recently attempted to bring more control and security to the Internet, the reality is that you must take the responsibility for yourself. In 2003, the Federal Government passed the CAN-SPAM Act, an attempted to curtail the vast amount of unsolicited email received by computer users, including mortgage applications, diet pills, and even pornography. In 2005, Michigan enacted Protect MI Child Registry, a state program designed to keep marketers from promoting certain products & services to minors. Twenty-six states have anti-spam laws on their books.

Yet last year, it is estimated that 4.5 trillion spam emails were sent.

The Problem is Jurisdiction
While legislators are trying to find new and innovative way of protecting the public, the reality is that even a tough new law isn't going to stop the criminals--due to jurisdiction. In the age of information, servers and information can be stored and transmitted within nanoseconds from locations around country and around the globe, making it that much harder to prosecute criminals.

For example, say you bought a product from a company in California via the Internet using a server in Iowa. They reneged on the deal and you want to sue. Where do you sue? At your local courthouse? Where the server is located? In California? The suit is simply too costly and time consuming for Joe and Jane Q. Public. What if it were three different countries rather than states?

The answer for more governmental regulation is seemingly an ideal choice, but in reality, we are many years away from such a protection.

Caveat emptor Let the Buyer Beware
Here are 3 tips to remember when online:

Guard your personal information
Identity theft is a big deal right now. Be sure you know who you are giving your personal information to before hitting the submit button. Is the company reputable? If you aren't sure, check with your local Better Business Bureau. Never give out your Social Security number to anyone online unless you ABSOLUTELY sure you know what you're doing.

Check for the "S"
Reputable online retailers use a special safeguard technology called Secure Sockets Layer or SSL, which encrypts and protects your credit card information as it travels across the Internet. Be sure the web address on the page that asks for your credit card information begins with https: rather than http: -- it means it is a secure connection.

Never click an email link
If you get an email that appears to be from your bank or online payment website, NEVER, EVER click on any links in the email. Use your bookmarks or search engine to access the web site and navigate to the place discussed in the email. I may take a few seconds longer, but it is the best way avoid being a victim.


The above article was issued by an OLC attorney when he previously worked in corporate operations and communications. Because these articles are highly informative, they are provided as a service of this law firm.