As the owner of a blog, you may be wondering if the same rules of commercial sites and apps apply to you.
To answer that question, here are a couple of things you need to consider:
- Are you collecting/interacting with the personal data of your readers (eg. names, usernames, email address, IP addresses, session activity or payment details)?
- Do you have a contact form or newsletter sign-up?
- Do you use any third-party widgets or services (for example, Google Analytics or AdSense)?
If you answered yes to any of these, then many of the same privacy rules that apply to commercial websites and apps will apply to you.
Legal requirements in general
In the US privacy laws can vary widely and are often implemented on both a State and Federal Level.
In the EU, the main data privacy regulations are the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the ePrivacy Directive (the Cookie Law). You can read our general legal overview.
Which Regulations apply to you
For the most part, compliance requires that you disclose data collection, inform users of their rights in regards to their data and implement methods of receiving/rescinding consent. Failure to adhere to data privacy laws can result in hefty fines, leave you open to litigation and negatively affect the credibility of your website. You can learn more about which laws apply to you here.
Legal requirements specific to blogging
Disclosing endorsements in accordance with legal guidelines
Many regulations, including those by US, EU and The International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), have specific guidelines in place regarding product/ service endorsements. Generally, they require that endorsements made by bloggers and influencers reflect the truth-in-advertising principles. This means that you’re not allowed to make any claims about the product that the marketer couldn’t legally make and that endorsements must be non-misleading and fully disclosed. You must inform users when there’s a connection between an endorser and the marketer a consumer would be interested in knowing, or that would change their perception if known. For example:
- you’re endorsing a product that is marketed by your relative;
- you’re an employee, shareholder or investor in the product.
You must also inform users when you’ve been given an incentive (financial or otherwise) to push the product. This means that whether you were given a free product/service, paid directly, or you make a percentage off each sale (in the case of Affiliates) you’re equally obligated to inform users of the fact. For example:
- you’ve been given a free night at a hotel in exchange for an endorsement;
- you’re reviewing a product with an affiliate link that earns you money, discounts or free products;
- you’re being paid by a brand to post pictures of yourself wearing their clothing.
According to ICEPEN, you must clearly and prominently label content that you’re paid to endorse and ensure that it is clear whose opinion or experiences is being stated. This means that disclosures need to be specific to the particular endorsement, so simply putting a single disclosure on your homepage won’t suffice.
Here’s an example of a complaint disclosure using the affiliate example above: “This blog received a commission for using “company name” products in the tutorial shared in this post. Although we receive a commission for using and linking their products, all of the products are tested thoroughly and only the ones that meet our standards are linked. All opinions stated are our own.”
Third-party apps and services also need to follow the law. As organizations themselves, they too can be exposed to major reputation damage, fines, and sanctions if their legal obligations are not met. For this reason, it’s often mandatory that all partners and customers that use their services meet regulatory standards.
“We extended the requirement to disclose our affiliate relationship to any means where you may be leveraging Associates’ content.”
Needless to say, it’s important to ensure that both legal and third-party requirements are met. From time to time, however, third party requirements can change in response to internal or regional regulations. It’s therefore necessary that your policies meet the latest requirements in order to avoid interruption of service or legal consequences. For this reason, we use embedding and NOT copy & paste for our document solutions. With this method, you can rest assured that your policy is up to date and being maintained remotely by our legal team.
You can read more about Google’s requirements here and Amazon’s requirements here.
How to comply
How iubenda can help:
Our policies are created by lawyers, monitored by our lawyers and hosted on our servers to ensure that they are always up-to-date with the latest legal and third-party requirements. Easily integrate with your website/app using any one of our integration methods to make sure that your policies are visible and easily accessible as legally required.
1) Add your services
- Click “add a service” then start typing the name of the service you’d like to add. Remember to include all services processing personal information as a blogger, you’ll most likely want to add services like “Contact Form”, “Mailing list or Newsletter” and social widget services such as the “Facebook like button”.
- Select each applicable service from the list of suggestions that shows up and customize by simply adding the specific types of personal data you collect. Our lawyer-crafted clauses automatically include the relevant user-rights disclosures and service definitions based on your input here.
- If you’d like to add a custom service clause, simply click the “create custom service” button and fill out the built-in form.
2) Fill out your web/app owner and contact details
- Enter name and full address
- Enter email address
Congratulations! Your policy has been created. Simply check that all the details are correct, then:
- Customize the look of your button or simply choose a text link;
- Choose the embedding method (choose between embedding code, direct link or direct text embedding);
- Easily embed wherever you’d like! Remember you’re required to choose a location that is easily accessible and visible to users.
You can start generating here.
Consent for data collection forms
Generally, US laws require that you provide users with an option for withdrawing consent (opt-out) when using data collection mechanisms (e.g. newsletter sign-up forms). Compared to US laws, however, EU laws (in particular the GDPR) are more stringent. Consent under the GDPR must be “explicit and freely given”. This means that the mechanism for acquiring consent must be straightforward and involve a clear “opt-in” action.
Within the context of a blog, this means that you’d be in violation of regulations if you were to employ mechanisms such as pre-ticked newsletter sign-up boxes when a user registers an account, as GDPR regulation specifically forbids pre-ticked boxes and similar “opt-out” mechanisms. The regulation also gives users a specific right to withdraw consent. This means that you’re required to make it as easy to withdraw consent as it is to give it. You can read more about Newsletters here and the GDPR here.
How to Comply
► Put in methods in place for obtaining informed, verifiable and explicit consent. The user should be honestly and straightforwardly informed about what they’re consenting to and the mechanisms chosen for obtaining the consent should require the user to actively consent via a clear affirmative action, such as clicking an “agree” button or clicking a checkbox. Ensure that the consent obtained is specific to the purpose of obtaining it and clearly indicate that the consent is optional as consent must not be “freely given” and not coerced in any way.
►Provide a means of withdrawing consent. As consent must be as easy to withdraw as it is to give, the withdrawal mechanism must be visible, easy to understand, simple and immediately available. Your withdrawal mechanism should be both situationally and generally available and involve no more than a single webpage. It should also be accompanied with an explanation as to its purpose.
If you no longer wish to receive weekly emails from us, you can click here to modify your settings or click here to unsubscribe instantly.
As shown in the example above, the mechanism most commonly used is the email unsubscribe link, however, it’s important to remember that the user should also have withdrawal options available within their account in order to facilitate withdrawal even before they’ve received the first email communication from you. User requests for withdrawal must be honored within 10 days under US law and within 30 days under EU law.
► Keep clear records of the consent attained. Records of consent should at least contain the following information:
- The Identity of the user giving consent;
- When they consented;
- What disclosures were made (what they were told) at the time they consented;
- Methods used for obtaining consent (e.g., newsletter form, during checkout etc.);
- Whether they have withdrawn consent or not.
How iubenda can help
iubenda can help with this in two ways.
- Our Consent Solution helps you meet your legal requirements by helping you to easily store proof of consent and manage consent and privacy preferences for each of your users. It allows you to keep track of and record every aspect of individual consents, including:
- the legal or privacy notice made available to the user at the time the consent was acquired (including multiple versions of the same document);
- the consent form (accepts various file formats) that the user was presented with at the time of consent collection;
- the identification of the specific user (it allows you to do this in multiple ways including an automatically-assigned user id); and
- the related preferences expressed by the user.
Cookie disclosure and Consent
How to comply
How iubenda can help
1) Enter name details
- Enter your site/app name or url into the text-box.
- Select your language and country from the drop-down menu.
2) Set consent model
- Click to choose between “with prior consent” (script blocking prior to user consent and reactivation after consent) or “no prior consent” (no prior script blocking). Remember script blocking prior to consent is mandatory in some regions including the EU.
- Choose whether to activate “consent via scroll” or not. When the option is chosen, your users can consent by simply scrolling and continuing to browse; the banner will be automatically closed by the action of scrolling. If this option is not activated, the user will have to click to close the banner.
3)Customize your look
- Customize the location and look of your banner via the simple built-in options or edit the css yourself via the “advanced” tab.
- Easily embed into your site. Choose between directly pasting the embed code into the head section of your site’s pages or using a plugin.
Congratulations! Your cookie solution has been created and is fully operational. Get started with your cookie solution here.
Protecting your interests and your content
Though not always legally required, a Terms & Conditions document is pragmatically required. It governs the contractual relationship between you and your users and is therefore essential for protecting your content from a copyright perspective as well as protecting you from potential liabilities. The Terms & Conditions document is a legally binding agreement, therefore not only is it important to have one, but it’s also necessary to ensure that it’s clear, easily understandable, precise and that users can both easily see it and agree to it in an unambiguous way (for example, clicking a checkbox with a visible link to the document before being allowed to create an account or comment). You’ll likely need a Terms & Conditions document if any of the following apply to you:
- You have different user levels (eg. registered vs non-registered)
- You want to set the rules for user behavior (including comments) and state grounds for termination of accounts
- Your users are allowed to upload content
- You participate in some kind of commerce, including affiliate programs
- You’d like to protect your blog and it’s content by stating how it can be used
How to comply
Set clear terms for users with a comprehensive and up-to-date terms and conditions document. This legal agreement is essential to protecting the interests of your business and establishing terms of usage. It is therefore vital that this contract be precise and up-to-date with all applicable regulations. It should include the general conditions for use of your service with special attention to limitation-of-liability clauses and disclaimers.
Please note that from time to time, laws are amended and updated. It’s therefore important to ensure that your policies meet the latest requirements. For this reason, we use embedding and NOT copy & paste. With this method, you can rest assured that your policy is up to date and being maintained remotely by our legal team.