These days, many businesses are moving online for the first time and are discovering that running an online business is much more than simply setting up a website. There are a whole host of regulations to keep in mind, both legal and ethical, and the consequences of not adhering to them can be steep.

It isn’t just regulators who are concerned with legal adherence. Consumers are conscious enough to choose businesses that value privacy and regulation. A 2019 survey conducted by Cisco revealed that 48% of respondents had already switched service providers due to their data-sharing practices and policies.

Here are 5 legal requirements that your website must fulfill at all times.

1. Privacy Policies

Privacy policies were one of the first ways visitors to a website determined a business’ data policies. These days, running a website without a clearly defined privacy policy is unthinkable. Your website should have a privacy policy in its footer.

The language in your privacy policy will differ depending on the type of data you collect and how you use it. At the very least, you should disclose the type of data you’re collecting along with clearly declaring the methods by which you collect them.

If your website uses analytics programs such as Google Analytics, you must disclose this, as well as describe how you’ll use that data. While regulations don’t require you to describe data usage in great detail, it’s a good move to be transparent with your consumers since this enhances their trust in you.

In 2016, the European Union adopted The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the most strict privacy and security law to date. The GDPR can issue penalties for violations that organizations not located in the EU, as long as they have visitors from the EU.

2. eCommerce Security

eCommerce businesses have many potential issues to consider. Aside from a marked privacy policy, your website must have a detailed Terms of Use agreement. Many companies choose to hire the services of a lawyer to draft this agreement since a poorly worded document can leave you vulnerable to being sued for damages.

Your website must have the latest in SSL security to carry out secure card transactions. Customers watch out for the presence of “HTTPS” in your address bar. These days, Chrome won’t send users to your website if your SSL isn’t up to date.

Your business should also have a clear take-down policy for social media content and interactions with your customers. You must define the terms of use for those accounts and communicate this to your customers. If you’re running public user boards, you must be transparent about the data you’re collecting and how you’re storing this information.

3. Accessibility

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, “places or public accommodation” must be accessible. The law does not specifically discuss website regulations, however, yet ADA lawsuits against inaccessible websites have been on the rise. Enter The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), part of a series of web accessibility guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium, the main international standards organization for the Internet.

WCAG is the standard for web legislation in most developed countries around the world. WCAG is an extremely complex set of requirements that define standards that every website must adhere to.

In the past, it was customary for a business to employ a team of web developers who would ensure WCAG accessibility was being met. These developers would change every element on a website to meet these requirements and ensure new elements were customized before going live.

The result was tedious work and a slow rollout of new web elements. These days, AI-powered tools make the job a lot easier by automating large portions of the process. As a result, businesses can ensure WCAG compliance in a cost-effective manner.

4. Copyrights and Attribution

In the earlier days of the internet, no one thought twice about copy-pasting an article from elsewhere and quoting it to make a point. These days, the same practice can land you a ban from Google and your SEO efforts will be for naught.

Any work that you did not create or purchase must be attributed to its creators. This applies to written content, photos, and graphics. Creative Commons licensed content can be used without attribution, but these requirements depend on the type of content you use.

Research safe harbor laws to make sure you aren’t infringing on someone else’s copyright. If you’re reproducing content, make sure you’re changing it enough to make it unique, or else you’ll risk an infringement claim.

5. Can-Spam

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has clear regulations that define how a business can use a person’s email for marketing purposes. Violating these rules could lead to a fine of $16,000. The most important thing to do is to make sure your subscribers have explicitly given you consent to use their emails for marketing.

Aside from the possibility of a fine, spamming people with emails isn’t going to do you any favors. It’s far better to gather their permission before choosing to send them emails.

An Evolving Field

The field of online regulation is ever-evolving, and there’s no doubt that the future will bring more regulations. Every business owner must stay up to date with these rules to make sure they aren’t hit with fines or Google bans.