Creating an online business is an exciting endeavor that requires courage, determination, and the ability to see beyond the boundaries of what’s immediately possible. While allowing your maverick entrepreneurial spirit to run wild may be what puts you on the path to success, however, tempering that spirit with an element of pragmatism is what will help you to stay the course in the long run.

Digital entrepreneurs are unique in their ability to identify opportunities, but spotting potential liabilities  is often their Achilles’ heel, and this leaves them susceptible to risk.


The Meaning of Liability & Liability Risks

Liabilities are legal responsibilities which arise from business operations, and can result in financial losses or legal repercussions of the business owner. As such, a liability risk is a potential danger that a business might face, which can ultimately lead to the business owner to suffer adverse consequences. These risks stem from the business’s obligation to ensure safe and lawful operations, and failing to mitigate and manage these risks can put the stability, continuity, and success of the business in jeopardy.


Liability Risks in Online Business

Forming an LLC is a big step in the right direction when it comes to liability protection, as it enables you to separate your personal assets from your business liabilities. This provides additional protection and tax flexibility, while also enhancing your business’s credibility. However, there are a variety of other liability risks that you should seek to mitigate in the pursuit of sustained success in online business. Let’s explore some of these risks and offer guidance on how to secure your online business against them.


Data Breaches and Cybersecurity

As a digital entrepreneur, cyberattacks are perhaps the single most daunting risk that you will face today. A single data breach or security incident can be extremely costly, and the financial and reputational repercussions are often too much to recover from for a burgeoning enterprise.

Statistics show that cyberattacks are becoming increasingly common for businesses and that the likelihood of an attack increases at scale. This means that simply having the resources to recover from an incident is not enough. With the threat landscape evolving all the time, cyber threats are becoming more sophisticated, so businesses need to be proactive in protecting themselves and reducing their cyber exposure.

Protecting your digital business begins with the implementation of robust cybersecurity measures. This includes encrypted data storage, secure payment gateways, security validation and monitoring, and regular audits of cybersecurity practices and policies. Additionally, consider cyber liability insurance, as the outlay involved is a drop in the ocean compared to the costs associated with a data breach.


Intellectual Property Challenges

Your IP (Intellectual property) is one of the most valuable assets your business has to its name. This can encompass a wide variety of different assets, including product designs, proprietary software applications or APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), or even original content published on your company website. All of these properties serve a role in adding value to your brand, but the harsh reality of digital business is that IPs can easily be infringed upon or stolen. As such it’s essential to have protection in place.

The cost of IP theft can be substantial, so to protect your business’s intellectual properties, take the time to ensure that patents, trademarks, and copyrights are in place where applicable. This way, you can ensure exclusive rights to any original products or content and ensure that you have legal recourse so as to avoid suffering losses to unauthorized use.


Regulatory Compliance

With more and more businesses working across international borders, regulatory compliance has quickly become one of the key business liabilities in the digital age. Additionally, as companies increasingly gather large volumes of consumer and user data and leverage AI tools for business intelligence, staying compliant with data protection regulations and standards is a more complex affair than it ever has been.

To avoid facing the legal, financial, and reputational ramifications of a compliance violation, it’s important to stay informed on relevant legal requirements everywhere that you operate. Moreover, you should make a continued effort to keep abreast of updates to industry standards, which have been known to change regularly in accordance with technological developments. These could mandate that you update your security measures to ensure that they are fit for purpose.

Furthermore, it’s wise to establish clear data governance policies that mandate how consumer information should be stored, handled, and utilized in your company, especially if leveraging automation and AI for data-driven decision-making. This will help to maintain data integrity and avoid costly violations.


Contractual Liabilities

When running a digital business, contractual liabilities should also be a key consideration for you. This pertains to contracts in all facets of your operations, whether with contractors, suppliers, or clients.

Costly, drawn-out contractual disputes are obviously something you will want to avoid, so it’s essential to have absolute clarity in contracts. Delivery terms, payment protocols, and scope of service should all be delineated in no uncertain terms. Moreover, it’s advisable to include provisions such as confidentiality clauses and penalties that can facilitate speedy resolution in the event of a contract violation.

When drawing up these documents, of course, you should also have designated legal professionals with whom you can confer to ensure that the contracts offer adequate protection for your business when entering into new relationships. It is also a good idea to have contractual liability insurance in place. This will foster stability and security for your business moving forward.


Third-Party Content

If your business provides a digital platform that hosts user-generated content, whether that includes guest posts, comments, or reviews, then you may also have another potential liability risk to consider. Broadly speaking, online platform providers are generally immune to this kind of liability. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, for example, states that no service provider should be treated as responsible for content created and published by its users. However, there are exceptions to this rule that one should keep in mind.

If a company is deemed to be involved in actively creating, editing, or selecting unlawful content on its platform, then it can lose its immunity and be held liable for that content. Depending on where exactly your business operates, different laws may apply and may take a stricter stance in this regard. As such, it’s important to closely monitor third-party content created by users, and to actively regulate and moderate it to avoid being seen as liable in the eyes of the law.


Conclusion

Protecting your online business from liability is not just about complying with the law. It’s about adopting a proactive mindset for managing risks across every facet of your operations. Forming an LLC is a crucial aspect of this as it gives your business both legitimacy and protection, but it’s important to consider the entire spectrum of risks. By understanding the potential liabilities of online operations and implementing strategies to mitigate them, you can establish a secure environment that will empower your business to grow and thrive in the digital marketplace of today.