A couple of years ago I (Bet) partnered with a local industry organization, hoping that their members would reach out for website needs. That never happened, but what did happen is that I started getting spam (aka cold emails) from services for that industry. It’s so frustrating to keep getting offers for things I will never need. I haven’t tried to prove it, but I highly suspect that the organization I partnered with sold my email (along with all their other members). I never ever wanted that to happen.
States Are Taking Privacy Seriously
Lots of people have had experiences like this. And because enough people have complained, laws are starting to get passed. Because our US federal government is not in a regulatory mood, laws are popping up at the state level. The California Consumer Privacy Act (passed in 2018, but taking full effect January 1, 2020), is the most comprehensive of the handful of state laws so far. But those other state laws bring with them some differences, and 20+ other states have privacy laws under consideration. All those laws create rights to privacy in varying degrees for their citizens.
What Is the Focus of These Privacy Laws?
The laws all focus on “personally identifiable information” (PII), which could be as little as an email address or phone number. So if you use a contact form or invite people to call you – you are required to disclose how you use that information, whether or not you keep it,
As consumers ourselves, site owners have to recognize that it IS important for consumers (aka site visitors) to have the right to control their information.
Here’s the really hard part for website owners: unless you have a locked-down site that the public cannot access, it’s impossible to keep citizens of specific states from visiting and using your site. And every state law that’s being passed is making it clear that business owners regardless of their location must comply with THEIR laws on behalf of their citizens who may use your site and be in contact with you. This means you not only need to stay in compliance with laws for multiple states, you need to stay on top of all new laws as they take affect and changes to existing laws – and laws in every state are changing fairly rapidly as implications for both consumers and business owners are being sorted out.
What Should My Website Do About Privacy?
You really have four choices. Each choice comes with its own benefits and risks, and you need to decide how to balance between them. As the old saying goes, “You don’t want to be penny-wise and pound-foolish!”
Option 1: The Do Nothing Approach
You can ignore the laws, and hope that you don’t get caught. I’ll admit, that there are probably some businesses that are less at risk. If you’re a plumber for example, most of your business is inherently local. But in my town, we have lots of out-of-state landlords – what happens when one of them calls you? Now you have to comply with the privacy laws for their state. Currently, the fines for being out of compliance range from $2500-$7500 PER USER VISIT. That could add up really fast! So this isn’t really much of a choice.
Option 2: Consult an Attorney
Option 3: Check Out What Others Are Doing in Your Industry
Option 4: Utilize an Expert in the Field
What Is BHM Doing About Its Privacy Concerns?
The folks at Termageddon are very helpful, and can answer any privacy questions that you might have. If you’d like some help getting Termageddon setup, we would be glad to help! Just email us from our privacy-compliant contact page.