The Internet Vortex
It happened. Everyone is online. Some may say this was caused by the personal computer becoming so affordable that every home now has one (or two)? Or was it the proliferation of Wi-Fi, laptops and smart phones? Maybe it was caused by the advancements in technology that allowed anyone with a mobile phone to access the internet at the same speed (or faster) than using a computer? Maybe it was a combination of all of these things. Whatever may have caused it to happen, the result is that the internet has become one stop shopping for all of our information and business needs. It’s where we do our shopping (i.e. AMAZON), our banking, our socializing (i.e. TINDER, MATCH.COM) and connecting (i.e. INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK) with new and old friends and most recently even our social activism (i.e. TWITTER). Online is the first place we go to for our news and for recommendations and reviews on everything from restaurants to doctors to house painters and baby sitters. The White Pages and Yellow Pages we used to rely on to obtain information on businesses have transitioned from print to online versions (along with a good portion of newspapers and magazines). This is why just about every business today has a website. If you don’t have an online business presence, you don’t have a business presence. Having a brick and motor storefront is no longer the only way to have a business. All you need now is a website, a business entity and an EIN (Employer Identification Number) and you can be in business literally overnight.
Websites are also relatively easy (depending on what you need your website to do) and affordable to create and maintain. You can hire someone to create your business website for you or you can create one on your own. There are several companies (i.e. GO DADDY, SQUARE SPACE, WIX.COM) that will provide you with the tools, templates and step by step instructions on how to create your own website. This is all great news for the small business owner. It means that the start-up costs for a business have decreased dramatically. However, having an online business or E-business has created new problems for the business owner.
As a website owner, how do you answer the following questions:
- How do you control who sees your website?
- How do you let your customers know how they can use or what they can do with the information on your website?
- Are you or the business activities conducted on your website subject to industry specific requirements or guidelines?
- If you ask for or collect information from users on your website, do you tell them how that information is used?
- What are your responsibilities for protecting the customer information you collect via your website?
- Are there certain people (minors) that should not be viewing or using your website?
- How do you minimize your legal liability if the information on your website is misused or used for an illegal purpose?
- Can you be held liable if your website is used, without your knowledge, to spread a computer virus?
- How secure does your website need to be?
- Protect the owners and operators of the website by minimizing their potential liability to third party users and visitors to the website,
- Protect any intellectual property that exists on the website or that can be accessed through the website from copying or other unauthorized use.
- Ensure that the website is not misused or manipulated by prohibiting illegal or questionable uses of the site by visitors (i.e. introduction of viruses; posting or uploading illegal or defamatory content; etc.).
Author Contact Information:
Michele G. Moss, Esquire
Johnson Moss L.L.C.
3505 Lake Lynda Drive, Suite 200
Orlando, FL 32817