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I'm working on a business directory for my city, and seeding it with public information (data that was already available in the web or in physical directories which anyone has access to see).

I know for a fact that this is not illegal; after all, search engines do it all the time. But I'm facing a couple challenges here:

  • Tone: Doing it in such a way that it doesn't come off as aggresive or predatory.
  • Opt out: Handling when business owners don't want their info to appear in our website. How to provide access for them to modify it while verifying that the request originates from a bona fide representative of the business (and not a competitor who might remove their listing maliciously).
  • Opt in: What to do when a business owner wants to register his business (which wasn't on the directory yet)?

What's the common way to do handle this? The last case is the easiest, because the site automatically sends them a secret code which they can use to modify their info in the future. But in the other cases, the best I've come up with is adding a disclaimer like "is this your business?" in which I ask them to contact the site staff.

Should I assume that whoever is sending data/wants their data removed or modified does, indeed, have authorization from the business to do it? Or should I ask for some verification?

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It's a tricky question. What city are you building this application for? Also, what do you mean by 'coming off as aggressive'? Have you tried looking at other people who might have had to deal with similar problems (how do search engines services deal with removal/edit requests)? –  rk. Jul 11 '13 at 21:22
    
@rk. Well, it's for a relatively small city (around 300k habitants) so I don't think achieving high penetration per business is that hard. What's difficult is to find a way to let the business owners that the can modify the info stored in the page. Also, search engines have robots.txt for this purpuse I guess. –  fedeetz Jul 12 '13 at 1:25
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Are you asking how to solicit more business details in a way that does not seem predatory? It sounds like you also want to know best practices for verifying identity so that competitors do not opt out on behalf of businesses they have no connection to? This is less UX, more "Let's call Legal..." –  LindaBrammer Jul 16 '13 at 16:27
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2 Answers 2

I will answer to your questions bullet after bullet as you are still in the design thing.

Tone

Apart from the general tone on your site welcome page, it is about your license.

The license should explain that you give to the referenced companies the opportunity to retract from your site, by contacting you or directly through the site if they subscribed.

This license should also be your chance to explain the purpose of your site, the different things you organize (collaborative events, crowd sourcing, self referencing and so on...) You should put the accent on your system being collaborative and social.

You should also reassure the business owners: they have the power(to retract, to admin) over their business on this directory by either sending you an email or by becoming referent for their business.

Be credible and trustworthy by quoting the law that you respect (an article about data privacy and freedom for example... depends on your country).

About the formatting, you can use green or blue fonts and background as it doesn't look aggressive. You can use peaceful images too (nature, calm, kids playing...)

Opt-in

For this kind of website you have to verify manually that they are the business owners. You need a 'become referent' link or button in order for them to contact you. Business owners become referent once you have verified their informations. This link should be easily accessible.

Opt-out

Directly from the site if they are referent, or by sending you an email and only after verification of their identity if they never subscribed.

Source: I worked on a similar project ;)

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On opt-out problem.
Requests for remove or change data should be confirmed from the same email, which pointed in the business data. So we suppose the user is genuine and perform the requesting action without admin involving.

Otherwise the request is placed in a queue and solved manually by admin, confirming via phone etc.

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