Yes, You Need a Website Policy

by | Resources, Termageddon, Website Policies

The primary goal of most business websites is to generate more quality leads. Other goals can include improving website performance through analytics or encouraging users to register for newsletters. Whether it be because of contact forms, website analytics tools, or newsletter integration, websites are constantly collecting the personal information (or PII) of its users.

Over the past few years, privacy laws have been implemented by certain US states and countries to protect the personal information of its citizens. Over the coming years, more privacy laws will be introduced. Privacy fines can range from $2,500 up to $7,500 per infringement (which could mean per website visitor). Check the state privacy law tracker for more information about the laws applicable to your website.

These privacy laws do not care about where the business is located; they only care to protect their citizens. Many of these privacy laws and bills also do not care about the size of the company. Because of this, we recommend to all of our clients that they consider not only having a Privacy Policy but also having a strategy to keep it up to date over time as laws change.

In this post, we will cover what website policies are, how they help you comply with laws and protect you by limiting your liability, and lastly how to obtain policies.

Website policies help you:

  1. Avoid massive fines and lawsuits
  2. Limit your liability
  3. Keep control of your website
  4. Protect your intellectual-property
  5. Ensure legitimacy to your website visitors

Want to skip the details and just want to know how to obtain website policies right now? Go to Obtain Website Policies now.


The 3 Most Common Website Policies

1. Privacy Policy

  • May be required under multiple privacy laws
  • Required to utilize several third-party tools
  • Can apply to businesses of any size and location

2. Terms of Service

  • Limits your liability for potential copyright infringements and third-party links
  • Answers commonly asked customer questions
  • Sets the rules for using your website

3. Disclaimer

  • Limits your liability (if applicable)

1. 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. Check out Virtually Nat’s Privacy Policy.

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 its 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 when websites 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/ 


2. 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. Check out Virtually Nat’s Terms & Conditions. Example disclosures might be:

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.


3. 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 hereby 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.


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, being that we are not lawyers, we do not provide Privacy Policies as a service, and we are not responsible for your business complying with any applicable privacy laws.

We, therefore, recommend a third-party Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions generator service called 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).

Termageddon Data Privacy Batch

If Termageddon sounds like a good solution for your business, we will arrange a licence for you. The license costs $10/month, and we charge a one-time setup fee of $125 to create the policy webpages, insert/test the code and ensure your policies stay up to date with changes to the law. You will have full access to your policies with your own Termageddon account, and you will be notified when new laws go into effect and when your policies are being updated, or when new disclosures require additional questions that need to be answered. We also offer a Termageddon licence as part of our monthly Website Care Plans. Just ask us about them!

If you would like to move forward with Termageddon, let us know by emailing us at natalie@virtuallynat.com.


What if I don’t want Policies?

Adding policies to your website is a decision you will have to make.

If you decide not to add policies to your website and we are designing and/or maintaining your website, we will ask you to sign a waiver stating that we have informed you of the need for website policies and understand the risks of not having policies.

About the Author

About the Author

Natalie Gallagher, founder of Virtually Nat, is super-passionate about design, digital marketing (websites, SEO, social media, and sales funnels), and helping businesses achieve their online goals wherever they are in their business life-cycle.

She is also a wife, a mom to 2 small children, a stepmom to 2 young adults, and a furbaby-mom to 2 rambunctious Labradoodles and an ancient cat. This sometimes makes for a bustling household! Other posts by .

 

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