Has Google FLoC’d Your Website Privacy Policy?

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Google is testing a new tracking method for interest-based advertising in its Chrome Browser. It’s known as Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).

If you own a website, it’s important that your site’s privacy policy accurately reflect how visitors are tracked and the type of data being collected…even if you’re not the one doing the collecting.

So, it’s a good idea to update your privacy policy to acknowledge visitors to your site using the Google Chrome Browser may be tracked using FLoC.

You may also want to let visitors know how they can disable FLoC tracking in their Chrome Browser. Most won’t but it’s a visitor-friendly feature that will be appreciated by those who are concerned about their personal privacy enough to read through your site’s privacy poicy.

And if you haven’t updated your privacy policy in a few years, chances are you’ll want an experienced Internet Business Lawyer to make other changes to your privacy policy to address important new laws and regulations.

Don’t Let Your Domain Name Lease Expire

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I went to the URL for a local company I’ve done business with for years. The site had disappeared because they had let the domain name expire.

Fortunately, I had the owner’s cell phone number to let him know so that he could renew the domain name. But if one of his competitors had registered the domain name before he got it, that would have been a disaster.

And he doesn’t know how much business he’s lost while the site was down.

So, how did this happen?

Like many website owners, he thought that both site hosting and domain name registration were a single thing, not two separate expenses. When he recently renewed the site’s hosting plan, he failed to pay to renew the domain registration fee.

How do you avoid this fiasco? Here’s a few tips.

  • First, register your domain name for a longer period of time (e.g. 10 years).
  • Second, using a contracts manager, add a reminder for when the registration is about to expire so that you can ensure it’s timely renewed.
  • Third, set up registration for auto-renewal with auto billing. However, you can’t solely rely upon this because your payment method (e.g. credit card) may no longer be valid when the current term expires.

How To Deplatform Your Website Users

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deplatforming website users the right wayIn most cases, deplatforming users you no longer want around with is perfectly okay. Just make sure you don’t cross the line into doing something illegal.

Let’s face it…

The are some users that become a pain in the ass to deal with.

That’s true whether you own a social media company, a paid membership site where customers can post content in a members’ area, or even a business blog that just allows comments by visitors who don’t pay for sucking up your bandwidth.

So, how do you deplatform legally?

Set specific criteria in your website legal documents and uniformly enforce them.

For example, let’s say you don’t want someone pimping their network marketing opportunity on your site. You can ban such in the agreement for using your site.

This agreement can be a written contract between you and those who pay for access to your site. If no payment is required, then generally the agreement is posted as a “Terms of Use” or “Terms of Service” that applies to all site visitors.

And it’s important that enforcement be uniform. Don’t make exceptions for friends or others from the rules you’ve set. If it’s “three strikes and you’re out,” no one should get a fourth chance to violate your rules.

Of course, you should avoid illegal activity when setting up your deplatforming rules. For instance, a rule that bans someone based on their race or gender would be problematic. Even if such conduct might be legal in some countries, there are many places it’s illegal to discriminate based upon those characteristics.

What about free speech rights?

The First Amendment and free speech laws are designed to limit the government’s suppression of speech, not owners of private businesses.

Although there’s talk of legislation that would treat large social media platforms as public utilities in order to regulate the rights they give and take away from users, chances are any such new laws or regulations will be focused on Twitter, Facebook, and the like.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

If the U.S., there’s a law that can provide you with a liability shield as you regulate content and deplatform those you don’t want around. Section 230 provides that “[no] provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Why is that important?

If you’re offering a platform for others to post content, you may be shielded from legal claims that arise from the content they post. This includes defamation claims.

The more you regulate content (picking and choosing which content is allowed), the greater danger this shield won’t apply because you could be treated as the publisher (like a newspaper owner).

Because some big companies abuse their power by arbitrarily picking and choosing who to deplatform, there’s a movement to get rid of this liability shield both by federal and state governments.

Setting written rules and applying the across the board is one way to minimize that risk even if Section 230 is repealed.

Of course, you should also avoid coordinating a deplatforming with others. Let’s say you own a paid membership site and decide to ban a member for violating your rules. Don’t encourage other business owners to also deplatform the member to punish the person.

Whether it’s an online membership agreement, a website’s Terms of Use, or another website legal document, an experienced Internet lawyer can help you set up the rules you apply to deplatform problem users legally.

Are underpants-stealing gnomes running your website?

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online business gnomes conceptIn a classic South Park episode, gnomes would steal people’s underwear.

Why?

One of the little thieves explained their business model.

  • Phase 1 – Steal underpants
  • Phase 2 – ?
  • Phase 3 – Profit

Does this seem absurd? Yet most website owners are no different than these imaginary gnomes.

Here’s the top 3 signs you’ve got a hobby disguised as an online business.

1. There’s no realistic plan to earn income now or in the future. Profits are non-monetary. For example, social media “buzz” expressed by the number of “likes” received, retweets, comments, etc.

2. There is a plan to profit but that plan changes every three months based on the hottest new fad pitched by some Internet guru.

3. The website isn’t run like a business. There’s no liability shield in place, no contracts, and no website legal protections. No Internet business attorney or accountant to make sure whatever is earned is protected.

So, do you have an online hobby or a business? Don’t mistake one for the other.

When Should You Pay Affiliates Commissions?

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pay affiliates commissionsIf you have an affiliate program for your products and/or services, when should you pay affiliates after a commission has been earned?

It depends on your risk comfort level and the quality of your affiliates.

Affiliate Fraud

Unfortunately, affiliate fraud is a common issue. If you haven’t prescreened affiliate applicants before approving them to join your program, chances are you’re going to have multiple con artists gaming the system to increase their payouts by screwing you over and cheating other affiliates.

Refund Periods Affect When You Pay Affiliates Commissions

So, how do you protect yourself and the integrity of your program?

As a general rule, it makes sense to wait to pay out commissions until after the refund period expires.

Credit Card Fraud And Affiliate Commissions

Even then, you may want to wait longer (e.g. 30 days) beyond the refund period expiration to reduce the chance you get cheated by a credit card fraud scheme.

For example, a con artist affiliate might buy stolen credit card information off the Dark Web and use it to make a bunch of bogus purchases to “earn” affiliate commissions. It might take a while for the victims to realize their credit card info has been stolen and contact their card issuers to request the charges be reversed as fraudulent.

Suddenly you’re getting hit with chargebacks by Visa, MasterCard, etc. after the affiliate has been paid and disappeared. So, you’ve lost the money on the sales plus the affiliate commissions. And you’ll be getting angry emails and phone calls from the victims who believe you’re the one who cheated them (instead of the con artist affiliate).

Where To Get Help

An experienced Internet business lawyer can craft an affiliate program agreement that’s designed to protect you and reduce your risks when you pay affiliates commissions. The attorney can also prepare the right privacy policy, terms of use, and other website legal documents you need to minimize the legal dangers of selling products and services online.