Website Terms & Data Privacy: Building Trust Online

Whether your business operates solely online or in tandem with a brick-and-mortar location, complying with applicable regulations, communicating your privacy policy and promoting transparency with online users is essential. Clear terms and conditions and robust privacy policies will be your best assets for meeting those goals, and they also provide key intellectual property protections by laying out precise limits on the use of images and content.

Because the online operations and needs of businesses vary so widely, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to e-compliance. Below, we cover three main areas where legal counsel can guide your business through changing regulations and help you build trust with customers and clients.

Website Terms and Conditions: Setting Out Ground Rules

Website terms and conditions govern how visitors use your business’s website. They usually state that by using the website, visitors are agreeing to the terms in their entirety and entering into a legally binding contract with your business. Although the exact language will vary from company to company, terms and conditions generally describe who owns the website, state how site content can and cannot be used, secure intellectual property, waive liability for any third-party content that the site links out to, and more. These terms are especially important for businesses with interactive websites—where visitors can make purchases or download content, for example. An attorney can help you draft language that follows best practices and provides strong legal protection for your business online.

Privacy Policies: Outlining User Data Practices

Privacy policies are an increasingly important consideration for companies doing business online. Broadly speaking, these policies state the specific user data that your business will collect, how it will be collected, and how it will be used. Aside from some narrow or industry-specific regulations (HIPAA in healthcare, for example), no federal law currently requires the use of privacy policies. However, the Federal Trade Commission does require that companies follow the privacy policies they create, and new laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) mandate them.

Given this challenging regulatory environment, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of legal counsel when drafting a privacy policy. You need craft a comprehensive policy that customers and clients will understand and ensure that the privacy policies of vendors you work with align with your own. That way you can avoid regulatory consequences and build trust around your business online.

Changing Regulations: Managing Ongoing Compliance

Online privacy and transparency have come under increased scrutiny in recent years, and new laws like the GDPR and CCPA illustrate the rapidly evolving regulatory landscape that businesses must confront. It’s important to be proactive, especially for independent creators and early-stage businesses without in-house compliance teams.

Seth has over 20 years of experience, as an attorney practicing at international law firms and as in-house counsel to an international private equity firm. Seth has advised on, structured and executed commercial transactions throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, both as a legal practitioner as well as an equity and debt holder.
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