FAQ: Common Problems

Third-party services that request member information

There have been a number of questions about third-party services such as virtual communities, online meetings, member e-mail accounts, and other services that require a council to set up "accounts" for its members. When these accounts contain any sort of personal information (name, e-mail address, etc.), some potential issues arise:

COPPA Violation
Federal law (the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1999) requires a commercial Web site to have written permission from a parent or guardian before collecting or publishing any personal information about children under 13 (even if the child or their parent enters it into the system themselves).
SOLUTION: Either obtain this permission before setting up an account for anyone under age 13, or do not make such services available to children under age 13.
When members fill out an application to join Scouting, provide their contact information for a roster for a council or unit event, or complete any other form or information sheet used in the context of Scouting, they do not expect the information they provide will be used for any other reason. Any violation of an individual's expectation of confidentiality is a potential liability issue for the council.
SOLUTION: Do not use existing sources of information, such as the member database, unit rosters, etc. to sign members up for Web site or e-mail "accounts" with a third-party provider. Instead, develop a separate form to collect this information. This form should specifically indicate the purpose for which the information it collects will be used. You should also read the site or software provider's service agreement carefully so that you can disclose any alternate use they may have for the information.
If such services enable users to post their comments to a council-operated Web site or send messages from a council-specific domain, the perception of those who read/receive those messages may be that they come from the council itself, and there may be liabilities that arise as a result.
SOLUTION: If a service enables a user to post remarks to a page or send an e-mail message, the best solution is that the content should not be posted until after the council has had the opportunity to review/approve the content.

Advice for changing your Web site address

There have been a few instances in which a Web site moves to a new address, only to find their old address is taken over and used for an objectionable site.

It's a fairly common practice for marketers to register a recently-abandoned Web address to capitalize on the residual traffic - so that people who use bookmarks or follow links to your old address will be taken to their site instead.

Since the previous owner has abandoned the address, it's extremely difficult (in many cases, quite impossible) to rectify the situation - but it's fairly easy to prevent this from happening in the first place:

  • Even though you plan to discard the old address, register it for at least another year (the cost of doing this is usually reasonable - less than $20)
  • Promote your new address as early as possible. Make sure that any reference to the Web site that appears anywhere (on the site, in brochures and newsletters, stationery and business cards, etc.) is updated to reflect the new address.
  • For the first three months, have both old and new addresses point to your site, with a prominent notice on the home page that the adress is changing.
  • For the next three months, direct the old address to a forwarding page - one that says only that your site has moved to a new address (and provide that address).
  • After six months, delete or destroy all materials containing the old address. If the council has a large stock of stationery or business cards that it is reluctant to destroy, you may need to make this transition last longer, until printed materials that bear the old address have been completely expended.
  • For the last six months, do not direct the old address to anything - this will generate a "site not found" error, which will force users to update their links and bookmarks. (So long as the address retrieves a site, even if it's just a forwarding page, some users will continue to believe it is valid).
  • Finally, let the Web site address lapse - it's still possible that someone will register it, but since it has been returning errors for six months, and since the old address has not appeared on anything the council has distributed for the past six months, it's unlikely many people are still visiting the old address.