6 Tips For Ensuring Your Business Website Remains Legally Compliant - Purple Fox Legal

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6 Tips For Ensuring Your Business Website Remains Legally Compliant

By Purple Fox Legal

October 19, 2022

The Internet is one of the best places for today’s consumers to find information about a business they’re interested in. In fact, it’s one of the first places that people look. Websites are a requirement for successfully conducting business today. However, there are many laws and regulations to which they must conform. 

This article explores some of the legal regulations that business websites must maintain ro remain in compliance. We will also share six tips you should keep in mind when building and maintaining your business website. 

Do I Need a Business Website?

Business owners who have previously found success offline might find themselves questioning whether they really need a business website or not. The truth of the matter is that every business needs an online presence, especially if it plans to grow well into the future. Some of the benefits that come with building a business website include:

  • Improved authority
  • Increased visibility 
  • An ability to sell online
  • Strengthened customer service/relationship

Legal Website Requirements Small Business Owners Should Know About

It doesn’t matter if your business operations primarily take place online or offline. Either way, your business website must adhere to specialized requirements, especially to help keep consumers as protected as possible. Ignoring these guidelines could result in your business website being blacklisted or removed from search engines. 

Here are six legal requirements that should be applied to your business website. 

  1. Web Accessibility 

Is your website accessible to everyone?

Everyone specifically includes disabled individuals who may have difficulties navigating the Internet. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), any public-facing business must comply with web accessibility standards and guidelines. This means that your online content must follow four main principles, and grant the ability for every person to:

  • Perceive it
  • Operate it
  • Understand it
  • Interpret it
  1. Cookie Policies

Website “cookies” are tiny pieces of data created by a web server while a person is browsing their site. They are placed on the person’s web browser and are used to help identify their machine. Cookies include small bits of information, like usernames, passwords, and IP or email addresses. While you may not collect the information gathered on your websites, third-party plugins and applications might. This is why you need a cookie policy. 

Business owners should start by conducting a cookie audit to determine the cookies their website actually collects. Then, inform visitors about how you plan to use their cookies and offer control by giving them a chance to opt out if they’d like. 

  1. Terms and Conditions

Your website’s “terms and conditions” page is one of the most important pieces of a business website. This area is responsible for outlining the rules of your website and describing the relationship that exists between your website and its visitors. The terms and conditions page will be unique to each website, depending on its purpose, but most contain some variation of five basic elements:

  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Information related to the website
  • Instructions for submitting Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown requests
  • Statements to limit liability
  • Information regarding the right to refuse service
  1. Privacy Policy

Does your website collect user data? Personal information often collected through websites includes data, like names, phone numbers, mailing addresses, credit card information, and more. If your website is responsible for collecting this information, then you are required to share your privacy policy. 

Your privacy policy should provide a detailed statement explaining exactly how you plan to collect, handle, process, and/or share visitors’ information. 

Additionally, your website must also comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) which places stringent requirements on parties collecting personal information online from a child under 13 years of age. Alternatively, if children (or parents of children) aren’t your target audience, then your privacy policy should include a statement asserting that you do not knowingly collect personal information online from any child under 13 years of age.

Some other important elements of privacy policies include encryption information, the legal basis for data collection, rights of your users, and any third-party disclosures. 

  1. Intellectual Property Protection

Website notices and agreements aren’t only in place to protect users and consumers. Business owners must also be mindful of the fact that other nefarious Internet users may steal their website content, plagiarize their words, or even earn profit from copying their designs. Providing strong language in your terms and conditions demonstrating your ownership of the intellectual property within your website can  help prevent this from happening. 

Obtaining a registration certificate for your website from the U.S. Copyright Office may also prove useful for protecting an original website, its content, web pages, photographs, and writing. Copyrights help remind users that your website is an original work and that it cannot be copied or stolen without permission. 

However, not all elements of a website can be protected under copyright law. Some components of your website that are more difficult to protect include:

  • Domain name (this topic falls under trademark law)
  • Plans for future websites/web pages
  • Unoriginal material, including photographs, icons, or familiar symbols
  1. eCommerce-Specific Requirements

Business websites that collect secure data, like credit card information, find themselves under even stricter requirements than typical websites. This is because security and trust are some of the most important components that create a reliable website. And, since ecommerce websites transfer quite a bit of sensitive information, they must remain credible to continue their success. Obtaining a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate for your domain name allows you to upgrade to an HTTPS address. This HTTPS status enhances your company’s credibility with customers. 

Unlike the HTTP website prefix, the additional “s” creates a more secure connection between the user and the business website. This is because of the encryption that’s automatically included. And, because all data transfers are encrypted, ecommerce websites that take advantage of HTTPS gain more confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity. 

Business Professionals Should Have Their Websites Evaluated

In order to help business owners build websites that are secure, reliable, and trustworthy, certain requirements and guidelines have been put into place. Many of these are regulated legally. It can be difficult and overwhelming to follow them, which is why consulting with an experienced attorney is recommended.