Is a Website Privacy Policy Required by Law?

Our NYC and Miami Entertainment Law Firm advises and represents clients in all legal matters related to music, sports, television/film, visual and literary works, modeling, online matters, and intellectual property.

The internet provides brands with incredible opportunities to truly connect with consumers. However, its fast-changing landscape is also fueling growing concerns, specifically on using and sharing personal data to third parties without the consent of the consumer. 

Nevertheless, it is an opportunity to gain consumer trust by implementing effective data practices and publishing a transparent privacy policy.

Due to the lack of a single extensive internet law on online privacy, the personal data of Americans are at the mercy of a patchwork of sector-specific laws with varying degrees of protection. Does US law even require a website privacy policy?

What Is Internet Law?

Internet law refers to legal principles and legislations that govern the use of the internet in all its forms. It usually encompasses principles from other legal fields, such as internet marketing law and data privacy. 

The US has a myriad of internet marketing laws that ensure truthful online advertising and privacy. In general, there are three areas that online marketers have to be concerned about: data collection, intellectual property issues, and marketing regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

Data privacy laws, on the other hand, govern how organizations collect and handle consumer data. Most, if not all, of these laws require website operators to disclose what information they collect from consumers and for what purpose in a legal document called privacy policy.

What Does a Website Privacy Policy Cover?

A website privacy policy communicates how and why an organization collects data from its consumers. In general, it discloses the types of data an organization collects, as well as how it collects, handles, stores, and protects consumer data.

Depending on the laws and policies they have to comply with, website operators even have to specify how consumers can change the way organizations collect, store, or share consumer data. Operators may also have to disclose the rights of consumers to request data deletion or to opt-out of the sale of personal information.

Is a Website Privacy Policy Required by US Internet Law?

The US doesn’t have a single all-encompassing federal law that requires websites to post a privacy policy in all circumstances. However, a website privacy policy is still a legal requirement.

There are existing federal and state laws that govern privacy policies in specific circumstances. A few examples are the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA). 

CalOPPA is one of the strictest privacy protection laws in the US. It affects everyone who gathers personal information from residents of California. Thus, even if an organization operates outside of the state, the California Attorney General legally requires it to have a website privacy policy if it handles data of California residents. 

Moreover, there are international laws like the General Data Protection Regulation that have an extraterritorial effect. Since the European Parliament and Council of the European Union designed the GDPR to protect the personal data of European Union citizens and residents, its impact extends well beyond the EU. It applies to any organization that handles data belonging to EU citizens and residents.

What States Require a Website Privacy Policy?

The states of California, Colorado, and Virginia have extensive consumer data privacy laws that require a commercial website to post a privacy policy. 

All three state laws require website privacy policies to define the different types of data an organization collects and indicate which ones are shared with third parties. The policies must specify how consumers can request changes to specific data. More importantly, they must disclose the consumers’ right to access and delete personal information, as well as their right to opt-out of the sale of personal data. 

What Happens if There Is No Privacy Policy on a Website?

Every modern organization that collects and handles data that they can use to identify an individual should have a website privacy policy. 

If an organization doesn’t comply with existing state, federal, or international privacy laws, the relevant authorities can hold it accountable for its violations. Specifically, they can subject the organization to hefty fines and penalties for failing to comply with the laws.

France, for instance, fined Google $120 million and Amazon $42 million for dropping cookies without the consent of users.

ChaseLawyers, Your Partners in an Evolving Legal Marketplace

ChaseLawyers has deep industry knowledge and experience with providing legal guidance on all matters concerning internet marketing law. We provide quality representation to models, social media influencers, software developers, entertainment companies, and entrepreneurs. 

Whether you need us to help you enforce your intellectual property rights or you need legal counsel on DMCA compliance, ChaseLawyers can help you navigate the ever-evolving regulatory environment with minimum effort.

Want to know how we can help you? Get in touch with us now!

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