As an added bonus, you won’t be lulled to sleep with boring legalese… because we’ll be keeping things light and maybe even a bit amusing. Let’s be honest, the last thing you want or need is a stiff, boring post that reads like it’s written by a lawyer.
Luckily, you’ve found a guide written by a Harvard Law Grad turned online entrepreneur who sounds NOTHING like a lawyer because he probably hates legalese more than you do! (That’d be ME!)
Since you’re here reading this post, I’m gonna take two wild guesses about you…
First, you’re building an online business.
(If you are not an online business owner and you’re reading a post about online business legal stuff, seek help…)
I mean, freaking lawyers like their legalese even more than they like dressing up in boring suits, and they always tend to make things harder to understand than they really need to be…
You’re welcome. 😉
We’re gonna get to the learning in a second, but first let’s take some concrete action.
Simply answer a few questions, and our system will create a custom policy for your business.
Again, you’re welcome. 😎
After you create your custom policy using our generator, come back to read the rest of this post…
…it’s okay, I’ll wait.
***Bobby waiting patiently***
Cool, you’re back. Now on to the learning!
But since I’m guessing you’d like to avoid hearing from Lawyer Man (insert charismatic superhero voiceover here for full effect), how about we put it into plain English…
And it certainly shouldn’t include a bunch of legalese.
There will be some technical language (about pixels, cookies, tracking codes, and the like…), but not a lot of legal sounding words.
Unless you serve lawyers, in which case… I’m sorry for you. But I digress. Moving on!
First… because the law says so!
But I’m betting you want more of an explanation as to why you’re legally required to have one (because you are… just in case that wasn’t clear).
We’ll cover that in the next section.
Second, a well-written policy can build trust for your brand.
But let’s get real for a second, given all the scammy crap that happens on the internet. It’s a good idea to do everything you can to create trust with your website visitors.
Before you ask, “personally identifiable information” is a really broad term. Basically anything that you could use to identify a person (alone or when combined with other info) qualifies.
It includes the obvious things like names, email addresses, addresses, and the like.
As you build your business, you’ll obviously be collecting this stuff ‘cause converting visitors into leads and leads into buyers is kinda the whole point of being online, right?
And you kinda need their information to do that.
But it also includes the not-so-obvious things that your website is probably collecting in the background like IP Addresses and info collected by the cookies and pixels you have installed for tracking purposes.
We could get all nuanced and technical, but that wouldn’t do you any good. Let me just say this simply: If you are building an online business, you are collecting personally identifiable information.
- California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA)
- The United States Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
- The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
- Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
- The Australia Privacy Law
Not so fast, my friend.
These laws don’t only apply to businesses located in those places. Under these laws, if you are collecting personal information from people who live or are present in those places, you are subject to the privacy requirements.
You read that right. It’s not about where YOU are… it’s about where your website VISITOR is.
Again, we could get all technical about it, but let’s just be simple… if you are building an online business, you are going to be collecting info from people in at least ONE of these jurisdictions.
I mean, it’s free right here and only takes 5 minutes.
Or really, the purposes… because yes, there are many.
- What information you collect from website visitors
- How you collect that information
- Why you collect that information
- How you use that information
- Who you share that information with
- What visitors can do to limit your use or collection of that information
Broadly speaking those are the major topics you include in your policy.
See, there is a method to the madness of this guide! I included the boring, technical definition of the term because it helps you understand what to include.
And call me crazy, but I think business owners should be able to easily understand their legal policies. (I’m pretty sure other lawyers hate me for this, but whatevs.)
Beyond those clauses, there are a few specific things nearly every policy will include.
Here in the US, it is illegal to collect personal information from children who are younger than 13 without the express consent of their parents.
So standard privacy policies should include a clause saying children under 13 are not to use the site and providing an email address for parents to reach out if there is an issue.
The EU’s regulation sets out certain rights that people have and requires us to tell people about those rights. Kinda like the Miranda warnings that cops have to give, but related to privacy rights.
Gotta be honest here. Few things scare me more than when I see an online discussion where one business owner tells someone else to just go “copy” someone else’s legal policy.
That “copy and paste” mentality is how I once saw a Canadian homebuilder with a website terms of service that said that Swedish law would apply to it’s music streaming services.
Music. Streaming. Services… on a home builder website. 🙄
I was utterly perplexed until I realized that someone had literally copied the Spotify terms of service and posted them as the website policy for this Canadian homebuilder.
No bueno, my friends.
Aside from these kinds of comical results, the other problem is that you have no idea whether the policy you’re copying and pasting is any good.
Not to mention the other laws mentioned above that they don’t comply with.
While copying and pasting is a horrible idea, using a good template is a great idea!
Seriously. Don’t. Your time is more valuable than that.
This is probably the ONLY time you’ll ever hear me say this…
Be like lawyers!
As annoying as we lawyers are, we have certainly mastered the art of not reinventing the wheel, and you should follow suit.
If you’ve made it down to the bottom of this post, you’re clearly an overachiever and I applaud you! Legal stuff is hard to stomach, but hopefully I made it as entertaining and easy to read as possible.
Because believe it or not, I hate lawyers and legalese more than you do. But that’s for another post another day.
Seriously, go now. 😁