Blogger? Where is your privacy policy?

If you are a blogger, here is something to ponder. If you have comments enabled on your blog or even have people registering on your blog to comment or otherwise interact with your site, you should have a privacy policy in place. Why? Well, because draft privacy legislation doing the rounds in Parliament will require that you publish one on your blog.

The thing is, if you allow people to comment on your blog and, like the majority of blogs these days, your blog contains fields for the commentator’s name, email address and web address, you are collecting personal information which is protected by that draft legislation and which, in turn, requires that you publish a policy that tells visitors to your site the following:

  • what information you are collecting;
  • what you are going to do with that information; and
  • manipulation and disclosure of that personal information.

There is an increasing number of legal pitfalls for publishers which must increasingly be dealt with using website terms of use and privacy policies. It sounds like overkill for your blog about your life which you may contribute to once or twice a week for your family members and three friends but that is simply not the case. Like most contracts and terms and conditions we encounter in our daily lives, these sorts of documents become risk management tools. We use them to guard against an array of risks that usually don’t occur to people, such as intellectual property infringement and privacy concerns. There are also jurisdictional issues, dispute resolution mechanisms and indemnities.

This may sound like a scam to make lawyers even richer but consider the possible consequences of being sued for copyright infringement on your blog or defamation arising out of inflammatory comments your visitors make. What about personal information stored in your admin section being accessed and sold off by unauthorised third parties? There are real risks which should be borne in mind. Social media empowers everyone to become a publisher. With that power comes the responsibility both to yourself and to your readers to put measures in place to minimise risk.

These implications for smaller publishers got me thinking about what bloggers can do to protect themselves. The usual solution is to either rip terms of use from sites on the Web (which are often poorly drafted or which are not really applicable to our legal system). A better solution is to have your lawyer prepare these documents for you. There is an initial cost which is far outweighed by the cost of litigation.

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