What is a privacy policy and why do I need one?

What is a privacy policy and why do I need one?

Whether we are building a brand new website for a client or redesigning their current one, there’s one question we count on receiving: “What is a privacy policy and why do I need one?”

Most people have seen privacy policies on websites they’ve visited, few actually read them. Even if nobody ever opens your privacy policy, you should absolutely have one.

What is a privacy policy?

privacy policy on our website
Yes, we practice what we preach- scroll down to view our privacy policy.

Usually accessed by a link in a website’s footer, a privacy policy is a document that discloses:

  • What personal information your website collects from users.
  • How you use their personal information.
  • How you keep their personal information safe.

What is considered ‘personal information’ will depend on policies and laws which vary by country.

For example, here in Maine data privacy laws are more lenient than California. There, they have the strict California Online Privacy Protection Act.

The catch is that even if you operate from another state like Maine, if you collect data on anyone in California you need to abide by their laws. As you may imagine, laws fluctuate even greater in other countries.

In many locations personal information includes names, email addresses, browser cookies, and IP addresses. This information is valuable for companies, marketers, and even the government.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”CF1c5″ via=”no” ]”Protect your business & show site visitors you value their data w/ an updated privacy policy.” #DataIsTheNewCurrency @OSC_WebDesign[/ctt]

Does my website need one?

While you may not recall intentionally recording browser cookies or IP addresses, there are a number of ways almost every website collects personal information. If any of the following statements apply to you, then the answer is yes; your website should have a privacy policy.

  • You use a third-party service like Google Analytics. Most (if not all) services that collect information from your users require you to include a privacy on your website.
  • Your state legally requires you to have a privacy policy. Many states and countries around the world require website privacy policies. If you operate a website in Maine like us, this applies to you.
  • You collect data from users in locations that require a privacy policy. Some countries have laws that require a privacy policy if you want to collect data on their citizens, even if you live elsewhere.

What happens if I don’t have a privacy policy?

privacy policy article
From article by Jacqui Cheng for Ars Technica.

If you decide privacy policies aren’t for you, it’s quite possible you’ll be in for a rude awakening.

Whether you are collecting personally identifiable information now, or decide to in the future without a privacy policy, you may be violating state, federal, and international laws.

Basically, you risk getting sued and paying fines.

What should mine include?

Your privacy policy should be written in language users can understand. The following points serve as guidelines and are by no means the only disclosures you should have in your privacy policy. If possible, we suggest you consult a lawyer to craft a privacy policy for your specific website and business.

  • Your business name, location, and contact information.
  • Which information is collected.
  • How you’re collecting this information.
  • What you use their information for.
  • If it is optional for them to share their information with you.
  • If possible, how they can reject your website’s tracking.
  • Third-party services your website uses to collect information.

Visit this website for a list of privacy laws by country and region.

Privacy Policy Generators

As we previously expressed, the best way to ensure you are fully covered by a privacy policy is to speak with a lawyer. If you own a small business and this is out of the question, some people choose to use online privacy policy generators. We are by no means a legal authority and cannot promise privacy policy generators will cover your unique situation completely.

Crafting a thorough privacy policy might be a pain right now, but it could save you from greater pain in the future. Wouldn’t you rather spend the extra time to protect and secure your business’s success?

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