Here's What You Need to Protect Your Blog

Blogging is a great way to spread your message and keep your clients up to date on the latest and greatest info in your speciality. But did you know that your blog needs protection in order to protect YOU?  Here’s what you need to have in place to make sure you’re legally protected!


PRIVACY POLICY

This policy is legally required if you are collecting email addresses and sending out newsletters to your audience.

A privacy policy is basically a disclosure document, the main purpose of which is to inform (and therefore protect) consumers.  It’s a declaration you are making to visitors of your website about how you are gathering information about them and what you intend to do with it.

If you are collecting any ‘personally identifiable’ information, even just a name and email, the requirement for a privacy policy is triggered.  Most countries have some sort of privacy policy requirement in place.  There are requirements for what needs to be included in a website Privacy Policy, such as what type of information the website is collecting, what you are doing with that information, whether third-parties are involved, whether you collect cookies, etc.  

AND WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE ONE?

You can get banned from THE GOOGLE! For violation of their Terms of Service, which if you use Analytics or other Google products – a Privacy Policy is REQUIRED.

In the US, all websites must have this (thank you California) because ANY business that collects emails in California must comply with the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA) stating you have to have a Privacy Policy on your HOMEPAGE - if you don't, Cali can come after you!  

Most countries have such laws, and the Canada and the EU have some pretty extensive requirements.  Even if you aren’t selling products or exchanging money with your audience, you still need a privacy policy.

TERMS OF SERVICE AND DISCLAIMERS

A “Terms of Service (TOS), Terms of Use, or Terms and Conditions” policy is about protecting your business and content.  It outlines how the content on your blog should be used and what people can (and can’t do) with your content.  

As a blogger, you need to keep in mind that while you don’t own the content of what your people write in the comments section, you still have the right to MANAGE it, so make sure your Terms of Service outline a few things.

-You can do whatever you want with the comments

-You can remove at your discretion (although nice to say you won’t delete them unless you have a good reason)

-You may require a minimum amount of information so you avoid spammers, etc.

In addition to Terms you want to make sure you have disclaimers - SUPER important to protect you from liability should someone misuse any information or products you put out there on your blog.  Disclaimers are meant to protect you and your business from legal action (obvs something to avoid!)  When someone visits your blog - you guys are entering into a legal contract.

Yep, just by having a website you are in a contract with lots o’ people - even if you don’t realize it - you are bound by what you put on your site and are in a contract with each visitor.  

THIS is why Terms of Service and Disclaimers are so important.

For example:  Susie is a health coach and puts up a video blog on how to do yoga at home. She walks you through a workout, etc.  Here comes Beth, she watches the video, tries the pigeon pose, and ends up falling and breaking her arm.  Crap.  Beth sues Susie for negligence.

Now, if Susie had the proper disclaimers on her website (that she has no responsibility for any injury, that you are doing this at your own risk, etc) than Beth likely won’t get very far (I say likely, because there are no guarantees).  But no disclaimer?  See you in court.  

COMPLIANCE WITH FTC ACT

Do you have a blog and get paid or sponsored endorsements, or affiliate income?  If YES, you need to make sure you follow the guidelines set forth in the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act.  

What this means is you have to be open and honest about when you are getting a cut or got the product for free/discount/etc to review or promote it.   

The FTC wants to protect consumers from ‘dishonest’ biz practices, meaning they want readers to know when you are just giving your opinion versus when you have gotten something in return for giving your opinion, review, etc.  Same for affiliate, if you are getting a cut every time someone clicks on your link, the FTC wants your readers to know that.

Below are some good practices to keep in mind if you want to avoid risking an FTC fine!

  • Make sure you are open and honest about affiliate or promo relationships (Note: having a disclosure page or section on some other part of your website won’t necessarily cut it, you need to have the disclosure be “clear and conspicuous” which usually means having your disclosure and link on the same page.
  • Simple disclosures that give your readers the info they need are fine - you don’t need to have a lawyer draft these, just be honest about what is going down.
  • For reviews, you don’t have to say the amount you were paid for something - just that you were paid
  • Have clear disclaimers and a privacy policy - these protect your readers but also you. If you are linking to affiliate products, you want to make sure you are protecting yourself from any liability that could incur from your reader using it.

One final point - make sure you read and understand your affiliate contract and definitely make sure you have an affiliate contract!

If you want to learn more - head on over to the FTC website - https://www.ftc.gov

If you’re blogging on your website, make sure you’re protected! You can grab templates for your Privacy Policy, Disclaimers, and Terms of Services here.