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Yes, You Need Website Terms of Use and a Privacy Policy. Here’s Why!

Updated: Mar 16

Legal policies on websites aren’t the most glamorous thing in the world. Oftentimes, we skip right over them, close the pop-ups, race through the “are you a robot” tests, and click “agree” without ever reading the website terms of use or privacy policy.

Usually when we land on a website, we have a pretty good idea of what we’re looking for, whether that is to find a piece of information, snag a freebie, or purchase a product or service.

However, when it comes to building your own website, there are some key website policies you’ll want to have in place to protect yourself, your users, and ensure your website is legally set up for success. Whether or not you think anyone will actually ever read your website terms of use or privacy policy, it’s important that you have them.

What are Website Terms of Use?

At a high level, your website’s terms of use (often called “terms and conditions”) tells the general users visiting your website how they can and can’t use the content on your website and generally interact with your site. Since you own your website, you get to set the terms for people visiting it, and your terms if you offer products or services there.

What is the Difference Between Website Terms of Use and Privacy Policies?

You often hear these two terms used in conjunction with one another, but there are some important differences between a website privacy policy and terms of use.

Website Terms of Use

A website’s terms of use protects you and your business. It is an agreement with anyone who visits your website about how they can interact with you and your content, general policies about working with you or buying a product from you, and disclaimers about the content you have on your website (IE, “Hey, it’s not personal advice. It’s general information only.”).

Another example is, if you do e-commerce or an online course or digital product, your website terms of use should clearly set out your refund and exchange policies, how you accept payments, etc. These terms of use are all about the details of doing business with you.

If you’re a service provider, this information will be set out in more detail in your client contracts, but it’s still a great idea to have general terms on your website about how the general public interacts with your website and uses your content, such as the free resources you provide.

Website Privacy Policy

Privacy policies are legally required. If you have a website, you are legally required to tell people how you collect their personal information. California and the European Union have the strongest requirements and laws around the collection and use of personal information, so it’s a good idea to know your privacy policy is compliant with these two jurisdictions because these laws apply to you if you have users interacting with your website from these places.

A lot of online business owners aren’t aware of how seriously they need to take protecting the data they collect. Data breaches and lawsuits are becoming more and more common as the general public becomes more informed about their data rights . The good news is, if you’re using a reputable website or platform, a lot of these features are already built in.

However, you need to make sure your privacy policy reflects your business. A good privacy policy will also teach new users that come to your site more about the rights they have. For instance, in California, users can request a copy of the data you’ve collected from them, so you need to know how to provide this to them within the legal timeframe.

A good rule of thumb when collecting data is to make sure that you collect as little personal information as is necessary to deliver your product or service. For example, do you really need someone’s home address to deliver an online freebie? Probably not, so don’t ask for it! This way, in the event of a breach, as little information as possible has been put at risk.

Another thing to keep in mind is that people need to actively opt-in to a privacy policy. They must give “Active Consent,” which can include clicking on a box on your website that accepts your privacy policy.

Similarly, users to your site need to be made aware and give their “active consent” to any use of “cookies” you use to track their behaviour and collect other information.

Website cookies are tiny blocks of data that a web server creates while a user is on a website. These are placed on the device and can be accessed to remember information when the user logs onto the website again. If you’ve ever seen your email or account information auto-populate on a website, that means you’ve agreed to the use of cookies on that site and it has saved your information. A similar “I accept” box advising of your use is needed from your user to gain their active consent.

5 Reasons Why You Need to Create a Website Privacy Policy and Terms of Use

There are several reasons why you need a website privacy policy and terms of use section. As a business owner, you have to take the necessary steps to protect yourself, your clients, and to ensure your website is legal.

  1. Your website and data collection is unique, therefore you need a specific-to-you privacy policy.

  2. A Terms of Use policy governs your relationship with anyone (in the general public) who visits your website. Depending on your services, your terms discuss the details about how the general public can interact with your site. This is where disclaimers should be used on your website to protect you from how your information is interpreted and used.

  3. It is a legal required and ethical business practice to let website users know about your cookie policy. Privacy laws around the world require consent from your website users for the collection, use, and disclosure of personal data. Using express, informed and “active” consent is the safest way to obtain this.

  4. You need a privacy policy on your website if you collect any form of information from your site, such as visitors, personal information, location, etc. This includes any information that is collected using cookies or something similar.

  5. Even if your website is hosted on another platform like Squarespace, Wordpress, or Shopify, you still need a privacy policy customized to your unique business and how and why you collect the information that you do from your website to carry out your specific offerings from your site.

While it may not be the most exciting part of having your own website, website policies and the legalities around them are essential for keeping your business, yourself, and your website users safe.

All of this can seem really overwhelming, I know. But don’t worry, because we’ve got a trusted source for you!

Contracts Market provides lawyer-drafted and peer-reviewed website terms of Use and privacy policy template bundles that can be easily and quickly customized to meet your unique business needs. It will take the stress and confusion out of the legal stuff on your website.

If you’ve ever wondered how to create a terms of use or privacy policy for your website, you can click here to shop the templates!

*Disclaimer - This post includes an affiliate link for Contracts Market templates. If you purchase through the link, I may receive a commission.

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