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What is Personally-Identifiable Information (PII)

Personally-identifiable information

This post is part of a series of articles covering Online Privacy Policies as they relate to website and blog operators. The purpose is to provide insight into the less obvious legal risks that entrepreneurs are exposed to in the area of privacy law and PII, simply by owning a website or blog. The fact is, legal consequences can result even if mishandling of PII is unintentional. . . . → Continue reading

Are Online Privacy Policies Required by Law?

When I initially got involved with designing websites, I remember being unclear about whether online privacy policies are required by law for the average website or blog operator. When I researched the issue, I quickly realized the answer is not a simple one. The short answer is: it depends. The longer, more complete answer depends on whether you are talking about federal law or state law. At the federal level, it depends on the age of the website-visitor. At the state level, it depends on which state the site-visitor resides in. The goal of this article is to provide clarity on this issue at both levels. . . . → Continue reading

Online Retailers May Soon Need to Collect Sales Tax on ALL Sales

The Marketplace Fairness Act, if signed into law, will empower state governments to require out-of-state online retailers and mail order companies to collect sales tax, or more specifically “use tax”, on interstate sales. To date, online retailers have been required to collect sales tax only if the business has a presence in the same state in which the consumer resides. Currently, if an online retailer sells a product to a consumer living in a different state, the consumer is expected to pay the tax. Most local brick-and-mortar retailers want to change that. . . . → Continue reading

How to Avoid Unintentional Online Copyright Infringement and the Lawsuits it Can Cause

Copyright Symbol

A local newspaper in Las Vegas, Nevada, was so fed up with the problem of copyright infringement they contracted a company to seek out and sue websites and blogs that copied their content in an unauthorized manner. More than 275 lawsuits have been filed. Defendants include hobby bloggers, forum operators, and commercial website owners. One of the more controversial suits was against the publishers of a noncommercial blog about cats. . . . → Continue reading

How to Write a Privacy Policy for a Website – Part 2 of 2: Options

Privacy policy assessments take time

While the previous post examines the assessment phase, this post covers the crafting phase – the steps involved in actually writing a privacy policy. It offers a free downloadable list (PDF) of solutions including auto-generator websites, sites offering privacy policy templates, as well as online professionals who will write a customized privacy policy for you. . . . → Continue reading

How to Write a Privacy Policy for a Website – Part 1 of 2: Assess

Man at desk working on privacy policy

Before a privacy policy can be written effectively, current PII handling practices need to be assessed. This post contains a list of questions that facilitate this assessment. The questions are based on requirements from a cross-section of relevant sources. The answers serve as a comprehensive outline upon which a compliant, consumer-friendly privacy policy can be constructed. . . . → Continue reading

Federal Legislation and Online Privacy Policies

In a previous article, I made the point that due to variations in evolving state laws requiring online privacy policies, the U.S. needs a standard set of requirements at the federal level. Without a universal standard across the U.S., online entrepreneurs were going to have a difficult, if not impossible, time complying with privacy rules. As the saying goes… be careful what you wish for! As of this writing (10 months later), 16 online privacy related bills have been introduced in Congress – and we are only halfway through 2011. They are listed here along with links to each bill in THOMAS, the Congressional database. . . . → Continue reading

11 Reasons to Have a Privacy Policy Posted on Your Website

Hand from computer screen grabbing PII.

There are numerous articles available on the internet listing reasons to have a privacy policy for your website. What makes this one different is it includes a reference to recently introduced U.S. federal legislation requiring privacy policies from all entities that collect PII. This legislation is now the most compelling reason websites and blogs need to have a privacy policy posted. Thus, it’s first in my list of 11 reasons. . . . → Continue reading

What is a Privacy Policy?

Image of privacy switch

The type of privacy policy discussed in this series of articles deals with personally-identifiable information (PII) collected online by website operators. Interestingly, while the federal government does take action against website operators that violate their own privacy policies, federal law does not explicitly require website operators to have an online privacy policy unless they collect personal information from children under the age of 13. Some states, however, require privacy policies regardless of the age of a website’s audience and regardless of the location of the website operator. . . . → Continue reading

Malware Solutions

Firewall graphic

The purpose of this post is to document details about the trojan downloader malware that found its way onto my machine and sucked up more than a day of my time. I will describe the specific symptoms that manifested upon its arrival in case someone else has the same problem and comes across this article on a keyword search. I will also share the preventative measures I now have in place to avoid a repeat situation. I don’t assume that readers will automatically make the changes I am presenting here but, like me, many people like to get multiple perspectives before implementing something new or making a change so, for them, I hope this information is useful. . . . → Continue reading

Types of Malware

Malware graphic

As I mentioned in the previous post, my laptop was recently infected by a trojan virus designed to steal confidential information. From what I learned, it was developed specifically to steal authentication data such as IDs and passwords for bank and credit card websites. This was very disturbing and motivated me to do a little research on the scope of the malware problem today. . . . → Continue reading

Malware Trends and Statistics

World stats graphic

In addition to the huge negative financial impact malware has throughout the world (negative unless you are an antivirus software vendor), these insidious pieces of code also rob us of one of our most precious resources – time. Whether you are chasing a deadline at work or rushing to get your taxes done online, if your computer gets attacked by malware you are usually stopped cold until the problem is resolved. . . . → Continue reading

Day 1 in the Blogosphere


Recently, I did some research to identify the total number of blogs on the internet. I wanted to know how popular this phenomenon of blogging has become. My goal was to cite credible sources, ideally as of 2009 or 2010. It quickly became clear to me that specific, current, reliable numbers are a real challenge to come by. The following figures are primarily from . . . → Continue reading