This is Part 2 of a multi-part Series on "requisite pages" for your website.
This article discusses mandatory 'legal' pages, why they are required, lists various regulatory entities you need to know about, and finally explains exactly what content the various pages must have in order to be in compliance.
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Legal Mandates & Your Website
If you have a local business -- if your audience is largely local or regional -- it may be hard to remember that websites attract a global audience. This is especially important to remember when considering what geographical regulations you are required to follow. Simply ignoring these regulations can get you into a lot of trouble, from fines to being prohibited from conducting business to being shut down by your hosting company or ISP!
This is largely due to the increasing focus on personal privacy around the world.
Privacy Concerns Have Changed the Rules...
Over the last few years, personal privacy has become a HUGE concern for the 'global citizen.'
The EU has been particularly vocal and active about protecting the privacy rights of private citizens. "GDPR" (General Data Protection Regulation) entered the lingua franca of every website owner, marketing department, solopreneur, legal team, and national Justice Departments around the world back in 2016 when it was adopted simultaneously by the European Parliament & Council of the European Union. It took effect on May 25, 2018, and threw the online world into chaos trying to figure out exactly how to comply and what would happen to individual website owners and businesses for non-compliance.
National & Multinational Privacy Regulations
Things have since emerged relatively unscathed from this chaotic frenzy, but this initial broad continent-wide, Europena Union-driven emphasis on personal privacy has since generated numerous other national & multinational policies:
- Privacy Shield
- COPPA: Childeren's Online Privacy Protection
- Australia's Privacy Act
- CalOPPA: California Online Privacy Protection Act
- Canada's PIPEDA
As you can see from this sample of national and international privacy regulations, the requirements are serious, will be enforced and cannot be ignored.
- Google Analytics
- Google Adsense
- Google Play Store
- Apple App Store
I leave it up to you to research those that are pertinent to you.
This article does not contain legal advice!
I am not a lawyer and this information is strictly for educational purposes to inform the reader so they are better informed to know what regulations currently exist, and how they may be impacted by such regulations in the course of doing business online.
You are cautioned to get expert legal advice before making any decisions for your own business regarding personal privacy and collection of personal data on your website(s).
I hope the above sampling of resources have convinced you about the necessity and importance of taking these requirements seriously! Now...let's take an in-depth look at the different pages you'll need.
In this article, I'll be covering the most common of these required pages, and providing resources to help you create them.
Remember that your geographical jurisdiction -- the place where your business is either "registered" (usually through a business license of some sort) or determined by your mailing address or physical location -- is a controlling factor in determining your exact needs.
Research these thoroughly so you know what jurisdictional requirements apply to you. Some US states have specific requirements based on the type of business you are conducting. California has different regulations for selling physical or digital 'products.'
You must research specific regulations & agencies that apply to your business.
This is a page on your website that spells out -- in clear and explicit language -- the information you collect on your website from site visitors and what you do with that information. It's also common -- and advisable, and in many jurisdictions required -- to explain why you collect that information.
As explained in the introduction to this article, website visitors are entitled -- as specified through various local, governmental & industry regulations -- to have their privacy protected. Parts of these collective regulations mandate that the website owner explain what is collected and why. Many regulations additionally require that you explain how you are going to protect the visitors' data and how they can download it, or request deletion of it at any point in the future.
You'll be happy to know this is the easiest part of this entire process!
CAVEAT: Make sure whichever service you use allows you to customize the 'generated' policy for your specific business. Also make sure it covers the specifics for your country of operation and local jurisdiction.
This is a page on your website that spells out -- in clear and explicit language -- any affiliate relationships you may have.
If you are including affiliate links ANYWHERE on your website, this page applies to you!
If you ever include "sponsored" posts -- paid for my another company & posted on your website -- these must be clearly marked as such and these relationships must be clearly stated in your Disclaimer.
Many affiliate companies -- such as Amazon, ClickBank, etc. -- have their own strict regulations as far as specifying even the wording you must use, so again you must do your research. Affiliates have been suspended or permanently removed for failure to have their Affiliate Disclaimer worded according to the Affiliate Agreements.
There are also regulations -- such as those of the Federal Trade Commission (in the US) -- that apply to websites selling or advertising products. So just because you may not be selling your own products, you still may be required to have such a disclaimer.
Can-SPAM Act -- also under the jurisdiction of the FTC (United States) -- covers email regulations and "spamming" so if you are collecting email addresses for any reason, you must comply with these regulations as well.
Again...if you are conducting business in another country, you must research your own country's regulations.
Regulatory agencies -- such as the US government's FTC -- have regulations in place to create "truth in advertising." The verbiage is very lengthy and specific, so you are referred to their regulations.
- Create a new Page in WordPress and name it Disclaimer.
- Put a link in your Footer for easy access and visibility for your site visitors.
You can't stop here, however.
While the FTC guidelines are very complicated, and don't really address affiliate disclaimers directly, this article has an excellent deep dive into Affiliate Disclaimers. I highly recommend you read it thoroughly and archive it for future reference in Evernote or Pocket or save it into your favorite word processor.
Terms of Service:
Also known as Terms & Conditions, this is a "legal agreement" between a website owner and a website visitor.
It spells out under what conditions the website visitor is permitted to use the website and any penalties for infringement or violations of those conditions.
You are referred to this article for additional general information, as well as additional references.
This is highly industry-specific, so make sure you do in depth research to see what requirements will protect you as the website owner.
This written policy is to protect the website owner from nefarious practices of any unscrupulous website visitors.
It's most commonly used to protect software companies from malicious visitor attempts to damage the company's software by uploading viruses or malware, or reverse-engineering proprietary code.
Gaming and app sites also face similar potential damage, so will have their own versions of these agreements.
Coaches and financial institutions also make use of this general type of written document, although the wording will vary considerably.
- Create a new Page in WordPress and name it Terms & Conditions or Terms of Service.
- Put a link in your Footer for easy access and visibility for your site visitors.
Fortunately, there are several free generators for these pages, but you are cautioned again to do your research & make sure they protect your specific circumstances.
In Part 3 & future articles in this Series, learn exactly what to include on other critical pages...
I discuss: Home, About, Contact, Start Here, FAQ, and more...
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