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Running a Website: Avoiding Legal Complications for Your Business

Running a Website: Avoiding Legal Complications for Your Business

With the changing tides occurring online, more and more businesses are preparing for the 21st century by adding an online presence to their marketing campaign. The growth of the internet has made it easier for business owners to expand their presence in their nearby communities as well as around the globe. For many, this transition into tech has been the beginning to a success story that they can pass down through the generations. However, for some, online presence has meant quite the opposite: the end to their lifelong dream.

The internet is like the universe — it is absolutely huge and continuing to grow larger. There is so much information, both privileged and otherwise, floating around the internet at all times. Businesses that use websites to make their customers lives easier, like Amazon and Intuit are exposing themselves to the risks of running an online franchise by allowing people to store private records on their websites.

With this in mind, it is important for businesses to understand exactly what running a protected website means, not only for the growth of their business, but for the lives and privacy of the people who use their services.

Protecting Privileged Customer Information

If you happen to run a business that processes credit cards or personal checking/saving account information online, it becomes even more imperative that the site you are using is operating efficiently and within the parameters of internet safety. Companies like Zoho and Braintree have been designed to help businesses process payment information securely by using third-party processors. Third-party payment processors allow you to collect payments on your website without needing to establish your own merchant account. Merchant accounts can be expensive and need a trained tech to operate, so third-party vendors are an excellent option for those who wish to be more frugal.

Online hackers work especially hard to learn your SSN and your banking information. This information leads them to further knowledge about your identity, until they have the necessary information to steal it. Cyber security breaches are a fairly common experience for individuals, as private information becomes more and more frequently stored on the internet. Protecting those who use your website is a great way to ensure you have recurring visitors. Once a website’s reputation for security has been lost, it can be difficult to gain back, and can ultimately result in closure of your business.

Protecting Your Business

Cyber liability insurance has been somewhat recently created to help companies avoid liabilities following the ownership or operation of a website domain. If you are a business with heavy online traffic, this insurance will help you feel better protected. Cyber liability insurance covers four basic elements of running an online website: errors and omissions, media liability, network security, and privacy. These four elements combine to protect businesses from events such as technological/software failures and consumer data breaches.

There are two things that you are required to include on your website if you plan to provide your customers with the greatest transparency regarding their online security: terms of service and a privacy policy. The terms of service typically include the rights of the business and the user, as well a statement of ownership of the material on the site. The terms of service should also include an option to “accept” in order for customers to continue forward. The privacy policy will represent the types of information you store on your website and what you use that information for. Again, this creates a level of transparency that your customers will ultimately appreciate.

If you run a website that frequently accepts the uploads of customers, like photos, videos, or blogs, it is 100 percent necessary to run regular maintenance checks on your tech to be sure you are following the guidelines set forth in your terms of service and privacy policy. Uploading a video can lead to some pretty serious legal matters for your business, so be sure you have a secure way to process and save the information being uploaded by outside individuals. This gives you more control over the material that is flying around your website.

A single data breach on your website can be catastrophic for your business. Making sure you are staying on top of your business’s IT will potentially save your company millions of dollars in liability charges. And who couldn’t use an extra million dollars?

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by Devin Morrissey // Devin has been a dishwasher, a business owner, and everything in between. He writes from his garage, occasionally rising to experiment on his friends' cars or do jumping jacks for no reason.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.