Five more common website mistakes to avoid

Businesses with websites should avoid these problems

A few months ago, I outlined five common mistakes that businesses make with their websites that can invite legal problems. Here is a rundown of five more website mistakes that companies often make:

1. Losing track of tracking cookies. Administrators of websites that rely on advertising networks should keep an eye on what types of information those networks collect, and remember that contracts with the network may require the websites to post certain disclosures.

2. Having nonfunctioning opt-outs for emails. The CAN-SPAM Act requires senders of commercial emails to maintain a functioning mechanism to allow recipients to opt out of receiving future such emails. Sometimes, a site will fail to include such an opt-out mechanism, or will contain a link to an opt-out screen that no longer functions. Check to make sure the mechanism works as it is supposed to.

3. Ignoring new top-level domains. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers maintains many more Internet domains than simply .com and .org. Keep an eye out for newer domains that might be useful for your business. This issue recently became more acute when ICANN, the body that governs the domain name system, approved the creation of a potentially unlimited number of new generic top-level domains to compete with .com, .net and the many country codes (like .us).

4. Collecting personal information from preteens without proper consent. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act requires commercial websites to obtain "verifiable parental consent" before collecting personally identifiable information from children under the age of 13, subject to five exceptions. Not doing so can subject a website to large financial penalties. This law applies not only to websites, but also to social networks and mobile apps. Operators of all of these have a tendency to get careless, or to ignore danger signs.

5. Changing privacy policies with retroactive effect. If you have operated under one privacy policy but wish to change it in order to make more and different uses of personal information (that could be viewed as "less protective of user privacy"), remember that the Federal Trade Commission believes that applying a new, more lenient policy to consumer information collected while the older, more restrictive, policy was in effect may be a deceptive trade practice.

Bill Baker is a partner in the communications practice at Wiley Rein LLP in Washington. He advises a broad range of clients on domestic and international privacy, security, marketing communications, e-commerce and postal law. He can be reached at 202-719-7255 or This article should not be construed as providing legal advice or legal opinions.

Read more about internet in Computerworld's Internet Topic Center.

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William B. Baker

Computerworld (US)
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