Do You Have Permission?

Using the internet can sometimes feel like navigating uncharted territory – and in many ways it is. The online landscape changes so quickly that we don’t always have the precedence established for what’s legal, and not legal (or even more confusingly, what feels okay, and what feels invasive).

It is so easy to find the things we are looking for online (a photograph, unique artwork, someone’s email address, etc.) that sometimes we forget that we need permission to use it. We can take a picture on our phones, and upload it within seconds – SECONDS!

And while it’s not inconvenient to do something without permission, we still need it. Having permission protects your clients from unwanted attention and contact, and protects you and your business from any legal recourse they might otherwise choose to take. Asking for permission to post pictures of someone, or to add them to your email list might seem robotic or awkward, but it will leave everyone feeling truly respected.

What is permission and what do I need it for?

It may seem silly that you should need permission (after all, “it’s just an email”), but it’s against the law to add someone to your email list without their permission. In fact, it could cost your business millions.

Permission refers to getting expressed consent to post pictures of other people, to add them to your email lists, or to do anything else online that may leave someone feeling as though their privacy has been violated.

Permission should be verifiable, meaning if you were asked to show proof that you got permission to do something, you would be able to. And, it’s that ability to verify that you’ve had permission that will protect you if something you do online ever gets called into question.

How do I ensure I have verifiable, express permission?

There’s no need to store years of physical “newsletter signups” or waivers … there are online services that help you track when you’ve received permission with a timestamp. You can use an eWaiver app, which, thanks to the Electronic Signatures in the Global and National Commerce Act, is now considered as legally binding as a signature on paper.

We like FastField forms for eWaivers, because it’s flexible to your needs and easy to set up. This app enables you to attach a photo from your camera roll, so if you’ve taken a picture, you can even show that you have a signed media release for that particular photo.

Most email marketing (newsletter) services will have permission settings built right in. MailChimp sends newsletter subscribers opt-in forms to ensure they want to subscribe. Plus, at the bottom of your newsletters, MailChimp includes a built-in Unsubscribe button. While it may be sad to see your list of subscribers shrink, it’s best to have a list that actually wants to be receiving your emails! MailChimp tracks the date and time of each action behind the scenes, so you’ll always be protected.

We created a formula called Borden Snaps, that will walk you through how to set up your eWaiver and your email marketing, so that you will be able to take a photo, and immediately receive permission to use that photo and to add the subject to your email list. We also go through best practices for reaching out to the people on your email list, for maximum return on your investment.

The Golden Rule:

Don’t assume you have permission. When you ask for it, everyone wins.

Asking for permission not only protects you legally, but it also builds trust and shows your consideration for others.


This post is a resource from The Borden Workbook, our comprehensive guide to help entrepreneurs organize and grow their small businesses. The Borden Workbook is used in conjunction with consultation with Borden Communications, or as an organized guide you can used on your own to launch, develop, and nurture your small business (starting now!). We take pride in creating a clear and humble approach to good business tactics that everyone can understand and execute.