Laws about Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

Guide to Laws about “Terms of Service” and “Privacy Policy” in the United States

This is a guide to the laws and rules about “terms of service” and “privacy policies” for websites, apps, and other online or software services. Be sure to see our full Guide to the Laws about the Internet & Social Media.

What is a “Terms of Service” or TOS?

A “Terms of Service” aka “Terms of Use” is a contract and agreement that lists the rules for what users can and can’t do on a website, app, or other product or service. It also states what the website owner is legally responsible (aka “liable”) for or not. For example, many Terms of Service say the website owner is not responsible if the site is down and you were relying on it to do something important.

Am I legally required to follow a Terms of Service?

Generally yes (although there are exceptions with any contract – see more at our Guide to Contracts). You (usually) “agree” to be bound by a Terms of Service simply by using the website, app, etc, or by clicking a button that confirms your agreement of the terms.

What is a Privacy Policy?

A Privacy Policy is a document that describes the information a website collects about you and what they do with it. See our Guide to Privacy Rights for what a company can or cant do with your information.

Although it is usually a separate page, the privacy policy is generally considered a part of the Terms of Service, and thus you are agreeing to the terms of the privacy policy by using the website or app.

Do I need a Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for my website?

The short answer is Yes. Having a Privacy Policy is generally a legal requirement for most websites. Having a Terms of Service may not be a strict legal requirement, but it is strongly encouraged. It can help protect you against lawsuits for large sums of money.

What should go in my Terms of Service and Privacy Policy?

You should not just copy these from another website, as you may not know what it means and it may not apply to what you are trying to do.

For affordable customized Terms of Service and Privacy Policy documents, we personally recommend LegalShield.1NOTE: Law Soup Media may receive compensation from this vendor if you use any of their services. We stand by every company we endorse.  Your purchases from these companies through our links help keep us around to provide you with free legal info! Thank you.

Further Resources

See your options for getting legal help on Terms of Service and Privacy Policy issues.

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