The Importance of Privacy Policies, Terms & Conditions, Disclaimers & Cookie Policies
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
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.
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.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (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.
Can I write these policies myself?
Can I ask my attorney to write these policies for me?
If you have a data privacy attorney on staff, you should definitely ask him or her to write this up for you. Just as a heads up, if you want to ask your outside attorney to draft these for you, that's a great idea but it may be a bit pricey. Also, lawyers that do not work in the privacy field often use Termageddon solutions for their Privacy Policies so that's something to think about as well.
Is my business too small for anyone to care about this?
Some of the laws that are being proposed or passed do not limit enforcement and liability to large companies only, so your small business could be liable as well. Also, consumers do not distinguish between small and large businesses when it comes to protecting their privacy and are less likely to buy from companies that do not respect their privacy.
Why is the Termageddon service a recurring fee?
There are a growing number of privacy bills in the US, with over two dozen that may require website Privacy Policies to be updated with new disclosure requirements. Penalties for non compliance can be substantial, with fines starting at $2,500 per infringement (aka per website visitor). A key component of Termageddon's offering is that their team monitors privacy laws, notifies you when the laws have changed and can even update your policies automatically with these new disclosure requirements. In other words, Termageddon monitors privacy laws so you don't have to.
Can I use a template?
Using a template that you found online is definitely tempting, especially since there are so many free ones out there. However, when you use a template, you can't be sure who wrote it so you don't know whether it's correct or even compliant with the legal requirements. Also, a template does not automatically update, meaning that you'll have to keep track of all of the constantly changing laws, which I'm going to guess is something that you don't have time for.