Which Laws Do I Need to Know Before Building a Website?

In its infancy, the web was seen as something of a lawless land, a vast, sprawling space traversing the continents with little regards to the rules, After all, since nobody really owned the Internet, finding a way to regulate it wasn’t exactly the easiest thing to do.

It’s for this reason that the early web gained much of its reputation as something of a dark, barren land that only hardened cyber criminals dared venture.

Today, thankfully, we live in much more civilised times. The web has been given a much needed makeover, transformed into a bright, safe place that’s accessible to all and essential to many.

Part of that clean up job came thanks to the lawmakers, who put measures in place to keep us safe online whilst still letting cyberspace be pretty much free and open to anybody who wanted to drop by.

So, when it comes to building your website, playing by the rules not only keeps you out of trouble, but provides your visitors with a certain peace of mind that comes from knowing they’re well protected whilst visiting your site.

With that in mind, here’s a few laws and regulations you may want to consider before building your website.

The EU Cookie Law  

In 2011, the European Union issued a directive which made it mandatory for all public websites which target EU customers to ask for users permission to store cookies on their device when they visit that site.

Officially referred to in the UK as an amendment to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Act, but known more informally as simply ‘The Cookie Law,’ the directive means that if your website uses cookies, you should inform your visitors about it and make sure they’re fine with it.

What are cookies?

In a nutshell, cookies are small text files that generate on your computer or other Internet-enabled website which help that device to remember your browsing session. They can also be used by website owners for advertising purposes.

You can read more about The Cookie Law at – http://www.cookielaw.org/the-cookie-law/

Copyright law

The actual wording of different copyright laws may vary slightly from country to country, but on the whole, it’s not that complicated to understand: Don’t steal other people’s stuff, don’t use other people’s stuff without permission (particularly if you’re trying to pass it off as your own), and if somebody steals your stuff and uses it on their website, take action.

Running a Google Images search might well turn up a treasure trove of gorgeous images for your website, but most of those images are copyrighted, which means that somebody else owns them, and you can’t use them without permission.

Most of the best website hosting packages come with free photo and image tools these days, so if you really are struggling for images, that might be a good place to start.

Data protection

Data protection has become big news in recent years, though mainly because so many website owners have got it so tragically wrong, ultimately lending to their customers’ personal information being stolen and/or used for purposes other than that which it was intended.

If you collect private data from your website visitors, such as if they fill in a contact form or make an online purchase, you need to be very careful about clearly explaining to those visitors exactly how you’ll collect it, and what you’ll do with that data once it’s been collected. You’ll also need to notify the Office of the Information Commissioner that you’re running a website which collects data from users.

You can find more information about data protection at https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/

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