21 July 2020
Once your website or mobile app starts to gain users, you're going to want to be able to communicate quickly and easily with your users.
A common way to send email communications to users is by using an email newsletter service, such as MailChimp, Aweber, Campaign Monitor, and so on.
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In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates provisions and sets forth guidelines and recommendations for how businesses can protect consumers' privacy.
FTC's guidelines call for these agreements to be written in clear, simple language that is easy to understand:
California's Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA) is intended to protect California citizens from unfair and intrusive privacy practices, but the effect goes far beyond California.
In the UK, the Data Protection Act of 1998 (DPA) governs laws on data privacy and data protection.
In Canada, it's PIPEDA.
In Australia, it's the Privacy Act.
If you plan on sending out email newsletters, regardless of the service you use, you'll be collecting email addresses of people who wish to receive your newsletter from your website and/or mobile app.
For purposes of the acts and directives mentioned above, an email address is considered to be "Personal Information", thus creating the requirement to have this kind of legal agreement.
You must let users know that you will collect their email addresses in order to send the email newsletter. If this is the only personal information you collect, and you only use the email addresses solely for sending the newsletter, just inform users of this in your legal agreement.
Here's how SaaS Weekly by Hiten Shah includes short and sweet information regarding the privacy of the email addresses for those who wish to subscribe on the subscription page.
This helps users know right away, without needing to open and dig through the legal agreement, that the email addresses collected are used only for purposes of its email newsletters.
However, if you ever do begin to collect any additional personal information, or use the email addresses for purposes beyond just the email newsletter, you'll have to update the agreement to reflect any new practices and notify users about any upcoming changes before these changes are in effect.
This language covers the collection of email addresses for communicating to users through email newsletters.
The "Communications" section again makes it clear that personal information may be used "to contact you with newsletters..." and that a user may opt out by "following the unsubscribe link or instructions provided in any email we send":
You must always include the "Unsubscribe" link in your email newsletters.
According to the CAN-SPAM Act, which spells out rules for commercial email and other commercial messages, you must provide a clear and conspicuous method of opting out of future communications in each of your communications.
CAN-SPAM sets out other requirements for commercial messages that can be viewed in the CAN-SPAM Compliance Guide document.
Here's an example of how theSkimm places the "Unsubscribe" link at the bottom of their email newsletter:
When the opt-out link is clicked by a user, the user must be given an easy way to unsubscribe from your email communications.
Here's another example of an unsubscribe field from Apple that simply asks a user to enter his email address twice and then click the "Unsubscribe" button as a confirmation. The link at the bottom lets the user unsubscribe from Apple's other newsletters that Apple may send to the user:
Make sure the agreement is accessible and easy to read and understand, and that you provide users with a way to easily unsubscribe from your email newsletter.
Examples of other platforms, such as websites or mobile apps, are helpful to determine where to place the links to your legal agreements.
Examples from websites
Another common placement for the legal links is in the header menu.
Examples from mobile apps
The "Legal" section of Evernote's mobile app has the legal agreements listed:
This URL linked from the app should be the same URL used on your website in the footer.
Examples from embeddable web plugins
An example of an embeddable web plugin is the SoundCloud's embedded music player that lets a user create and share a music playlist on any website simply by copying and pasting the widget's code.
This article is not a substitute for professional legal advice. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor is it a solicitation to offer legal advice.