Apple has created a PR nightmare for itself after threatening bloggers with legal action. The situation stems from Apple’s communication with a customer, where they are attempting to enforce a non-legally-binding email footer, demanding confidentiality to the email’s communication.
The problem lies in the fact that in one of the email messages sent from Apple’s support team, the legal disclaimer usually reserved for PR communication is appended to the message spelling out the steps to resolve the customer’s issue which has to do with the transfer of AppleCare from one device to another after repairs, a usually trivial affair that hit a snag and resulted in the customer posting about the experience on another blog in order to inform others and to try and see if any other Apple customers had gone through a similar situation.
While the original situation was ultimately resolved with AppleCare and subsequent follow up emails detail the resolution, the customer was sent another email from Apple’s legal department demanding that the customer delete the original post containing text from the email detailing AppleCare’s response to the original AppleCare transfer situation on the grounds that the text in the email was not meant for public consumption. The threatening email in question follows below:
I am one of the policy representatives here at Apple. It came to our concern that our policy was broken. It is illegal to transmit information from voicemails, e-mails, transactions, etc, into public or private blogs and forums, vlogs, as well as documentation onto the internet, except for the proper authorities.
We have been informed that a conversation with a member of our Agreement Administration team has been posted on a blogging website.
We do view all e-mails that are sent to our departments for security reasons. “This transmission may be privileged and may contain confidential information intended only for the person(s) named above.
Any other distribution, retransmission, copying, or disclosure is strictly prohibited. If you have received this transmission in error, please delete this message from your system.” This is a very strict policy that we enforce, and that the government is under watch of. We do ask that you take down the posting of the conversation that you had which was posted on
“http://goinside.com/2012/01/26/warning-check-your-applecare-support-profile/” . If no compliance is made, further action will have to be forced upon.
You will have 24 hours to take the post down.
Typically, such legal disclaimers regarding dissemination of company information are applied to PR in order to pressure journalists into going along with the companies’ particular wishes concerning information on new products, services and events meant for press.
As the communication from Apple’s support was posted on the blog in order to add context to the situation and not meant to slander or libel the company, Apple has no legal standing to issue the takedown notice, especially as all other correspondence did not feature the legal disclaimer, making the initial communique an anomaly. Legal experts also agree that such legal boilerplate isn’t binding due to the fact that only one side set terms regarding the nature of the information presented and does not allow for negotiation.
With Apple attempting to intimidate bloggers into silence, this only adds to the bad PR the company has received in recent weeks stemming from factory audits and its responsibility as a corporate citizen coming into question after statements made regarding its position on American jobs.