If you have a business, you likely have a website. And if you have a website, you must have website terms. Website terms consist of the Terms of Use, aka terms and conditions, and a Privacy Policy, preferably GDPR specific.

In today’s data driven world, privacy is everything. No one wants their personal information mishandled or sold without permission. Let’s dive into the important aspects of website terms and what you must know to protect your customers’ privacy.

Terms of Use

When you think of the Terms of Use, consider it a manual for the dos and don’ts on your website. For example, it may state that visitors to your website may sign up for an account and post reviews, but visitors may not copy your content or post inappropriate comments.

It also contains some legal terms that protect your business. Just like a contract between two parties limits liability, so do your website terms. It can do everything from disclaim product warranties (where allowable) to restricting how and when lawsuits are brought. It may also reduce the amount of damages your business owes to only what a consumer paid for a product or service. This saves you money and time!

From protecting your intellectual property to prohibiting bad behavior, the Terms of Use is a well- rounded agreement that you shouldn’t do business without. It provides much needed structure and guidance to consumers (and the business owner too!) when using a business website.

arrow pointing to website term links in footer of a webpage

Privacy Policy

Now, the Privacy Policy is an entirely different animal from your website terms and conditions. This policy focuses on how well you serve your website visitors, clients and customers. They are entrusting you with valuable personal data. How do you maintain that trust?

Even a random 1x visit to your website leaves an imprint as you will likely gather that visitor’s IP address, location and browsing behavior. Your website may install a pixel in their browser. All of this with one single click.

And then there are your clients and customers who regularly entrust you with all kinds of intimate details (name, address, phone number, credit card info, personal preferences and behavior). How are you handing this precious information?

All of this is addressed by a well-drafted Privacy Policy. A Privacy Policy breaks down what information is being collected, how it is being used and who it is being shared with. It also allows a visitor to opt out of sharing this information.

Privacy Policies also address children. Did you know that there is a federal law that governs how information is collected from children online? As a business owner, it’s imperative that you’re aware of whether or not your website is marketed to children.

Your Privacy Policy should address whether information is collected from children and it should adhere to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act requiring websites to have a parent’s permission before collecting any personal information from children under 13.

computer keyboard with a lock sitting on tap and a note that says password

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GDPR

And we cannot forget a little law known as GDPR. OK, so it’s not little at all. It is a force to be reckoned with called the General Data Protection Regulation which was passed in the European Union in May 2018.

Now you’re wondering, what does an EU law have to do with me?

If you actively target EU residents, GDPR privacy terms are a must. You’re required to protect their personal information and should have a process in place to do so. For many of you who do not target EU residents or expect them to have access to your site, well, they do.

With internet searches and social media, you’re going to get EU visitors at some point and they may opt in to your newsletter, purchase your service or comment on your site. It’s good practice to secure all sensitive website visitor info.

A proper GDPR section should address EU visitors and guide them on how to: delete their info, withdraw their consent and transfer their personal information among other things.

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

I also want to give honorable mention the California Consumer Privacy Act which went into effect January 1, 2020 and is very similar to GDPR. This law affects companies doing business in California that: (1) have a gross annual revenue of more than $25 million, (2) receive more than 1/2 their annual income from selling California consumer personal information, or (3) buy, sell or share the personal information of over 50,000 California consumers each year.

As you can see, it primarily affects larger businesses focused in California and those who specialize in selling consumer data. Still, you want to remain aware of this law as your small business grows and eventually reaches that 50k threshold in that state.

You can expect a trend of states creating new privacy laws to protect their residents. And congress is already considering a federal privacy law. So in other words, you need a privacy policy.

I hope this overview of the importance of Website Terms helps you get your business website up to date legally. Want more amazing business legal tips? Join the newsletter and follow Legal Goodness on Instagram and Facebook.

This blog posting is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not provided for specific, individual legal advice.

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