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Website Terms of Use and Privacy Policy: When Is It Time to Update?

If you have a website or an app, you (hopefully) know that you need to have Terms of Use and a Privacy Policy.

The Terms of Use (also referred to as TOU, Terms and Conditions, or Terms of Service) is a contract that users enter into when they use your website/app or any of the features or services found therein. The TOU can limit your liability, set out who owns what, and make it clear what happens if there’s a breach, among other things.

A Privacy Policy details what type of information you collect from your users and how you are going to use it. As with the TOU, it can limit your liability and define the venue where any dispute will be heard. It’s also required in many circumstances by various laws.

I’ve worked with many website and app owners on TOUs and Privacy Policies. It’s important to have them in place, but once they’ve been drafted and uploaded, they can’t just sit there forever without requiring any further attention. The circumstances of your business or the underlying laws can change from time to time, rendering your TOU and Privacy Policy out of date. For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) applies to businesses with users in California (even if the business itself is based elsewhere). CCPA went into effect in 2019, and many existing Privacy Policies still haven’t been updated to reflect the requirements that may apply to those businesses.

So when is it time to review your TOU and Privacy Policy to ensure that they’re up-to-date and your business is best protected against legal claims?

The general rule of thumb is that these terms should be reviewed and updated on an annual basis. It’s also a good idea to review the policies when one of the following two things occurs:

  1. You make a substantial change in your business. For example, if you introduce a new type of service, the terms that you want to apply to that service may not be reflected in your existing TOU.
  2. The laws change. Privacy laws are changing all of the time. If you become aware of a significant update to privacy law, or if you attorney advises you about such a change, it’s time to go back and review your Privacy Policy to ensure that it’s still up-to-date.

In summary, the best practice is to review (or have your attorney review) your website or app’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy on at least an annual basis. Set a reminder to do so along with other annual business compliance so this important piece of website hygiene doesn’t keep getting pushed to the bottom of the to-do list.

If you need your website or app’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy reviewed, feel free to contact me.

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