Privacy Policy 101: What Every Website Owner Should Know

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Privacy Policy 101: What Every Website Owner Should KnowHere are Internet Lawyer Mike Young’s answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about website privacy policy requirements. If you own a website, this is vital information for protecting yourself from lawsuits and government investigations.

General Information About Website Privacy Policies

Q: What is a website privacy policy?

A: It’s the legal document that describes the website owner’s policy with respect to the privacy rights of site visitors.

These rights may be multi-tiered.

For example, a website visitor may have different rights and responsibilities than a paying customer with access to a restricted membership area.

Related Article: 5 Warning Signs You’re Using The Wrong Website Legal Documents

In addition to the legal aspects, a good privacy policy builds trust between the site owner and visitors.

On the other hand, the lack of a policy (or a poorly drafted one) creates suspicion the website owner is dishonest or an amateur treating the site like a hobby.

5 Warning Signs You’re Using The Wrong Website Legal DocumentsQ: Are privacy policies required?

A: Although not all jurisdictions require websites to have privacy policies, some countries and states do.

The problem with this is that most sites do not restrict access by geographic location. This means that if you’ve got a site with visitors from another state that requires sites have privacy policies, you have potential liability issues even if the location(s) where your site is based and hosted do not have such requirements.

Even if you win, it’s costly to defend against a lawsuit by a state’s attorney general or a consumer protection lawyer who attempts to get a class action certified again you as site owner for violating privacy laws you may not have even known existed.

Q: Can I save money by writing my own policy from scratch?

get website legal protectionA: Probably not. Imagine you broke your arm with a compact fracture. The bone has pierced the skin.

Would you try to stop the bleeding, stitch up the wound, and set the bone at home with a do-it-yourself cast to save a trip to the emergency room? Chances are you’d end up spending a fortune later in medical bills trying to save the arm from amputation.

The same principle applies to legal issues like online privacy rights. It’s penny-wise and pound foolish to cut corners here pretending to be an experienced Internet business lawyer…

Google Privacy Policy, the FTC, and Your Rights

By | Business Legal Alerts, Federal Trade Commission, Privacy, Social Media, Social Networking | No Comments

According to the WaPo’s Craig Timberg (“Google facing FTC scrutiny over privacy — yet again”), Google has been accused in a consumer advocate complaint to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of engaging in deceptive trade practices by changing its privacy policy earlier this year to permit merging user profile data collected across the company’s various platforms.

Whether or not there is anything wrong with the Google privacy policy change remains to be seen. The FTC may even dismiss the claim on the merits.

What is clear is that the general rule of Internet free services applies. If you’re not paying for the service, you’re the product. It’s a Faustian bargain you enter into willingly with every online service that you use (from Facebook to Gmail).

Rule of Internet Free Services: You trade information about yourself and others in exchange for the service provider delivering what you want.

And if you don’t want to trade that information to be used for targeted advertising and other purposes, don’t use the “free” service. It’s really that simple.

Evernote Privacy Policy Change: Much Ado About Nothing

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evernote privacy policy updateUpdateEvernote has rescinded its planned change to its privacy policy because of the backlash. Users must affirmatively opt in before the company’s employees will be reading the content of user notes as part of the machine learning process. This is somewhat silly because the same issue has been ignored for many years by Evernote users who also use “free” email services like Gmail and Yahoo mail.

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Original Article

Evernote is updating its privacy policy to reflect that some company employees may view your content as part of overseeing the machine learning process.

There’s an uproar because some users (e.g. technologically-impaired journalists) naively think their information is stored online secure from prying eyes.

Here’s What You Should Know About the Evernote Privacy Policy Change

First, the general rule of thumb is that anything stored online is not secure. Just ask the celebrities whose naked selfies were exposed in “The Fappening.”

Second, many of those complaining about Evernote’s policy change think nothing about using Google Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and other email services where machine learning is also supplemented by company employees viewing user content.

Third, Evernote is doing the right thing by disclosing how the machine learning process actually works with the assistance of real people. If the company hid this information, you’d undoubtedly see shakedown lawsuits because of the lack of transparency (Tip – if you’ve got a website or an app, you should have your Internet lawyer make sure your privacy policy is consistent with your actual practices).

If you don’t want your stuff seen by third parties, don’t put it online. If you want to access everyday tools that make your life easier (like Evernote and Gmail), then understand there’s a trade-off that includes a loss of privacy.

Voyeurism Law: Protecting Your Business From Voyeur Videos and Photos

By | CyberCrime, Featured Articles, Privacy, Social Media | No Comments

voyeurism lawVoyeurism is a problem for business owners today. For example, former Playboy Playmate Dani Mathers took photo(s) of a naked woman showering at an LA Fitness gym and posted to Snapchat to make fun of the woman’s physique.

The social media backlash against Mathers has resulted in her losing her job, a lifetime ban from the gym, and she may face criminal charges for her conduct and prison time if convicted.

Prison time for digital voyeurism is becoming more common. Earlier this year, Georgetown Orthodox Rabbi Barry Freundel was recently sentenced to more than six years in prison after admitting to video recording 52 women taking nude ritual baths at the synagogue.

But what about your business’ potential liability for voyeurism?

When voyeur videos or photos are taken at a business, there’s always a risk that the victim will sue both the person who recorded the video or took the pictures as well as the business where it occurred. For example, Fox Sports reporter Erin Andrews sued both the stalker who recorded peephole nude videos of her and the hotel owner and operator.

Initially on the hook for $27 million in the subsequent civil suit, the hotel settled the case for $5 million.

What can you do to protect your business from voyeur videos and pics?

Although there’s no complete shield to prevent a lawsuit, your liability exposure can be significantly reduced by taking the following steps.

1. In places where nudity or partial nudity is likely to occur, prominently post signs that prohibit photography and filming. This can include:

  • bathrooms;
  • changing rooms;
  • fitting rooms;
  • hotel/motel rooms;
  • locker rooms;
  • massage rooms;
  • public baths;
  • showers;
  • sauna;
  • pools, etc.

If you have escalators and other locations where it is possible for upskirt pics or video to be taken without consent, you may also wish to post signs in these locations too.

2. In areas of your business where voyeurism could occur, have your cleaning staff routinely check for hidden cameras and video recording devices. You may wish to invest in hidden camera detectors to make it easier to discover spy cameras. Any suspicious devices should be reported to you immediately so that your business attorney and law enforcement can handle the matter.

3. Whether it’s a gym membership contract, a check-in agreement at a hotel, or some other written form of agreement you have with a customer, consider having the agreement modified by an experienced contracts lawyer to ban filming and photography in areas where voyeurism could occur on your premises. Your attorney may also want to include related indemnification and defense provisions.