There are two reasons for including a terms of use on your website. Firstly it provides all the information that you are required by law to provide on your website and secondly, it provides your business with important protections. This is outlined in more detail below.

The information that you will need to provide on your website depends on whether you are a sole trader, a partnership, a limited company and/or a member of a regulated provision. There are also some very detailed requirements for what you need to include if you are carrying on e-commerce on your website. This article only deals with websites that are not carrying on e-commerce.

The protections that you should include in your website terms of use include the following:
•   that you provide no guarantee as to the accuracy of the information on the website;
•   that the user’s use of the website is at their own risk;
•   that the user may not reproduce any of your content, designs, look/feel etc without your consent;
•   that you have no responsibility for and do not endorse any linked sites;
•   that if you recommend a third party product or service, you have no liability for that product or service;
•   that a third party can’t link to your website without your consent;
•   to prevent unauthorised access to your website;
•   to prevent disclosure by users to third parties of access security information;
•   to exclude your liability for any third party hacking into your site;
•   to exclude liability for a third party posting illegal or defamatory content on your site;
•   to exclude liability for any advice given on your website.

A privacy policy outlines your practice on the collection, storage and use of personal data. You need a privacy policy if you collect any type of data from your users.

You must comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/2426) (“Regulations”) (it can be a criminal offence not to do so) and a privacy policy helps you to comply with your obligation under the first data protection principle to process data only for “specified” purposes and to provide information regarding processing at the time when you collect the data.

A privacy policy is also a useful tool to obtain implied consents from the user for (i) using cookies and (ii) receiving direct marketing (which you are required to do under the Regulations). Note however that implied consent will not be sufficient for processing sensitive personal data such as ethnic origin, sexual orientation, political opinions, religious beliefs etc. when you must always obtain express consent for processing.

Finally, as well as helping to ensure compliance with the various requirements of data protection legislation, a privacy policy can also serve a useful marketing function by reassuring customers who input their personal data onto your website that their personal data will be used responsibly and kept secure.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has published a Good Practice Note for website operators on the data protection aspects of collecting personal data and all good privacy policies should incorporate this.

Privacy policies are not specifically required under data protection law, but they can help to ensure compliance with a number of its provisions. Failure to comply can, in certain cases, lead to criminal sanctions (with directors and other company officers potentially facing personal liability) and liability for damages, not to mention negative publicity.

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