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The Wall Street Journal reported this past week that Microsoft Corp.’s earnings release was inadvertently made available through the company’s website. The Journal reports that Microsoft’s second-quarter earnings release was available more than an hour before Microsoft’s expected release time.
This incident is not at all uncommon when it comes to business websites. This incident is also a good reminder for decision-makers and business owners to make sure what is being presented on the company website is appropriate for your operations and complies with any applicable regulations. For example, as a publicly traded company, Microsoft’s “early” release of earnings caused it to consult Nasdaq officials and could bring into play obligations under the Securities and Exchange Commission regulations.
While not every company will have to worry about reporting to Nasdaq or Securities and Exchange Commission officials when it comes to website content, every company does have to worry about its online image, its own operations, and a patchwork of state and federal laws specific to Internet operations. In that regard it is important to establish procedures to prescreen all new web content and to periodically review existing content.
Website Audit Checklist
The following (in no particular order) is a good check list for both:
- Is it accurate and up to date?
- Are any links broken or otherwise up to date?
- Does it inadvertently disclose confidential, proprietary, or otherwise sensitive company or employee information?
- Intellectual Property
- Are appropriate copyright notices in place?
- Is there website content that may Infringe upon others’ intellectual property?
- Should you include a Digital Millennium Copyright Act Notice and designate an agent with the U.S. Copyright Office to receive notifications of claimed infringement?
- When terms will be updated and how will such updates be communicated to visitors.
- Warranties and limitations of warranties;
- Limitation of liability;
- Choice of law;
- Alternative dispute resolution; and
- Integration clause.
In regard to privacy and data collection, the following areas should be considered:
- If applicable, is your website security appropriate and up to date? This is especially important if your site allows for conducting online transactions.
- Are visitors advised of what information is collected and how user information will be treated?
- Where is the privacy statement posted?
- How user information is treated?
- How user information is share?
- How does the website address personal information of children under 13?
- When terms are updated how are such updates communicated to visitors?
Ideally, the preceding areas will be jointly addressed with your legal counsel and your IT/Webmaster.
The preceding points to consider should not be considered legal advice. But it is good business advice because conducting such an audit is an important component of an effective Internet risk management program that will – if done properly – contribute to your company’s overall bottom-line by reducing legal and business risks for your Internet operations.