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The Importance of Website Policies

This article helps explain what website policies are and how they help you comply with laws and also protect you by limiting your liability. 

What is a Privacy Policy?

A Privacy Policy helps website owners comply with privacy laws by providing specific disclosure requirements such as how their website collects, uses, and discloses personally identifiable information and more.

A comprehensive Privacy Policy is required to comply with privacy laws

Today’s modern websites are built to provide a great user experience and motivate prospective customers to reach out and inquire about what you have to offer. This is done through the use of tools such as contact forms, website analytics, and more.

Contact forms ask users to submit their ‘name’ and ‘email’, which are examples of personally identifiable information. When a website uses analytics, it collects each visitor’s IP address and shares that personally identifiable information with third-party data analytics providers. These are just a few examples of the many ways websites collect and share personally identifiable information. 

Penalties for non-compliance

The collection of personally identifiable information is regulated under multiple privacy laws. For example, in the US, there are four state privacy laws that can apply to businesses, regardless of their location, and fines for non-compliance start at $2,500 per “infringement” (per website visitor). Each of these privacy laws has specific disclosure requirements that have to be added to your Privacy Policy to be compliant.

On top of that, over two dozen privacy bills have been proposed on a state-level, each with their own unique disclosure requirements and penalties for not complying. Some of these bills will enable citizens to sue businesses (of any size or location) for collecting their personally identifiable information without an up to date and compliant Privacy Policy. Due to the ever-changing nature of privacy laws, we recommend that you not only have a comprehensive Privacy Policy in place but that you also develop a strategy to keep your policies up to date when these laws are amended or when new laws are implemented. 

Google requires your website to have a Privacy Policy

Outside of the legal requirements, Privacy Policies are required to use popular third-party tools. For example, a website utilizing Google Analytics is required by Google to have a Privacy Policy. You can find this requirement within section 7 of Google’s Terms of Service: https://marketingplatform.google.com/about/analytics/terms/us/ 

What is a Terms of Service Agreement?

A Terms of Service Agreement limits the liability of businesses by stating the rules to using the website. 

Example disclosures

third-party links: When a website offers links to third-party websites, a Terms of Service can help explain to users that the business is not responsible if a user clicks those links. So, if a third-party link brings a user to a hacked website, the Terms of Service disclosure can help prevent you from being sued. 

DMCA Notice: A Terms of Service agreement can also provide what’s called a DMCA notice, which helps prevent a business from being sued by providing contact information in case the website is accidentally using copyrighted material (like images or content). 

There are many additional disclosures that a Terms of Service can make, but these two are the most popular and are easy ways to protect your website and your business.

What is a Disclaimer?

A Disclaimer is a document that helps limit your responsibilities and liabilities for your website in certain circumstances.

Does your website:

Advertise third-party products or services? A Disclaimer will help you protect yourself if a user clicks on the third-party advertisement and gets a virus, is somehow injured by the product or service, or is not happy with the third-party product or service

Sell or display health products? A Disclaimer will help you protect yourself in this case if the health products do not work as they should, do not deliver the results that were expected or if the user gets injured by the health products.

Participate in an affiliate program? An affiliate program is a program whereby you list a particular link on your website and, if the user clicks on that link or purchases the products that the link displays, you receive money from the manufacturer of that product. A Disclaimer will help you comply with the affiliate program’s Terms of Service as most affiliate programs require you to provide a Disclaimer and will help you keep your user’s trust.

Provide health and fitness advice? A Disclaimer will protect you in case the user gets injured after following your health and fitness advice, much like the beginning of those exercise videos that you will watch in January of next year.

Provide information that could be seen by others as legal advice? A Disclaimer will protect you here by stating that there is no attorney client relationship here and that this advice is not legal advice, thus protecting you in case something goes wrong.

What is a Cookie Policy and cookie consent banner?

Cookies are little snippets of code that get inserted into the user’s browser and device when visiting a website. They can help ensure a website properly functions (aka essential and functional cookies). They can also track website visitors for analytics and advertising purposes (aka marketing cookies).  Several privacy laws require users to provide consent prior to implementing non-essential cookies on their browsers. This is commonly done through a cookie consent banner, which will ask your website visitors to choose their consent settings. It is important to identify what privacy laws apply to you, and determine if you are required to provide a cookie consent solution on your website along with a Cookie Policy further describing the purpose of each cookie.

How to obtain website policies

If you have the budget, we recommend hiring a lawyer that focuses on privacy law to write your website policies, monitor privacy laws, and update your policies when the laws change or when new laws go into effect. If you do not have the budget to hire a privacy lawyer for your website policies, we recommend using Termageddon. 

Termageddon is a comprehensive website policies generator and will update your policies when privacy laws change or new privacy laws go into effect, helping you stay compliant and avoid privacy related fines and lawsuits, and they do it at a fraction of the cost of a lawyer. Although Termageddon is a technology company (not a legal services provider), it was founded by a privacy and contracts lawyer and the tool has been recognized as a trusted tech vendor by the largest international privacy organization in the world (iapp.org).

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