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Think about disclaimers for your online banking site

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We are trying to make a checklist of types of disclaimers we should think about using in connection with the Internet. Do you have a list?

Three things come to mind immediately:

  1. If your institution has a Web site and you place information on the site relating to nondeposit retail investment products, you must follow the current regulatory guidance to give the proper disclaimers regarding those investments. That means including the following disclaimers on the pages where you include information about those products: l) This product is not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. 2) This product is not a deposit or other obligation of, or guaranteed by, the bank. 3) This product is subject to investment risks, including possible loss of the principal amount invested.

  2. If you have links from your Web site to third-party Web sites, it's wise to include a disclaimer to alert customers to the fact you do not control the content or anything else on the third-party site. The regulators have provided excellent examples of best practices for this type of disclaimer on their own Web sites. For example, when you click on a link on the FFIEC site that would take you to a third-party site, a pop-up box appears that says, in its title tag and in large letters at the top of the box in an area designed to draw attention with color: "You are leaving the FFIEC's Web site." The rest of the disclaimer reads as follows:

    The Web site you have selected is an external one located on another server. The FFIEC has no responsibility for any external Web site. It neither endorses the information, content, presentation, or accuracy nor makes any warranty, express or implied, regarding any external site.

    Thank you for visiting the FFIEC's Web site.

    Then, they take it one step further. They structure the pop-up box code in such a way that you must click on either "OK" or "Cancel" at the end of the disclaimer. Your browser will not take you to the new page unless and until you click on "OK". This ensures the customer has observed and read the disclosure. You'll be glad they did when the formerly innocuous site you may have established a link to has been purchased by a porn purveyor and is now featuring XXX content. The disclaimer doesn't eliminate the need to perform periodic link-checking, but it does give you something to point out to your customer when an unchecked link gives your customer a rude surprise.

  3. If your employees correspond with outsiders using Internet email and the messages could contain proprietary or sensitive information, you should, first of all, have a sound email policy that limits your risks, particularly with respect to inadvertent disclosures of customer information. Secondly, you should consider affixing a disclaimer on each email sent by one of your employees. The nature the disclaimer is very much like those fashioned a few years ago for cover sheets on facsimile transmissions. Here are some samples we've rounded up recently:
    • The electronic mail and the materials enclosed with thistransmission are the private property of ______________and the materials are privileged communication intendedsolely for the receipt, use, benefit, and information of theintended recipient indicated above. If you are not the intendedrecipient, you are hereby notified that review, disclosure,copying, distribution, or the taking of any action in relianceto the contents of this transmission is strictly prohibited,and may result in legal liability on your part. If you havereceived the transmission in error, please notify us immediatelyat the email address listed above and arrange for thedestruction or return of this transmission to us.

    • CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This e-mail contains privileged and confidential information intended only for the use of the individual or entity namedabove. If the reader of this e-mail is not the intended recipient, youare hereby notified that any retention, dissemination or copying of thise-mail is strictly prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error,please immediately notify the sender by telephone at the above number and delete the original e-mail from your system. Thank you.

    • Notice: This communication is confidential, and may contain legallyprivileged information. Any dissemination to persons other than theaddressee(s) is strictly prohibited.

    • IMPORTANT/CONFIDENTIAL: This transmission was sent from the Corporate Legal Department of _______________________and is intended only forthe use of the addressee shown. It contains information that may beprivileged, confidential and/or exempt from disclosure under applicable law.If you are not the intended recipient of this transmission, you are herebynotified that the copying, use, or distribution of any information ormaterials transmitted herewith is strictly prohibited. If you have receivedthis transmission by mistake, please destroy the original message andimmediately call us collect at (___) _____ __________.

    • This e-mail message (and attachments) may contain information that is confidential to __________ Bank . If you are not the intended recipient you cannot use, distribute or copy the message or attachments. In such a case, please notify the sender by return e-mail immediately and erase all copies of the message and attachments. Opinions, conclusions and other information in this message and attachments that do not relate to the official business of ____________ Bank are neither given nor endorsed by it.

    Will the disclaimers at the bottom of your emails truly prevent unintended eyes from reading the transmission? Doubtful. And unlike the fax disclaimers which appear on the cover sheet (before the reader gets to the good part), many emailers are using a signature file for the disclaimer on emails, which means it appears at the bottom of the message, where a recipient will likely see it only after he's read the body of the email. If the sensitive info is in an attachment to an email, the disclaimer may be effective. If the confidential data is in the email itself, however, put the disclaimer at the top -- not the end.

First published on 2/11/02

First published on 02/11/2002

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