Privacy Policy 101

THE EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PRIVACY POLICIES POST!

Now, a privacy policy may not be at the top of your list of 'things I want to learn today' but you need to know this stuff and I'm here to make it easy for you!  

Read on for the 411 on Privacy Policies! 

WHAT IS A PRIVACY POLICY ANYWAY?

A privacy policy is basically a disclosure document, the main purpose of which is to inform (and therefore protect) consumers.  A declaration you are making to visitors of your website about how you are gathering information about them and what you intend to do with it.

Who has to have one? Basically anyone with a website – specifically the “operator of a commercial website or online service.”

THE INTERNET IS NOT A PRIVATE PLACE, BUT THERE ARE CERTAIN EXPECTATIONS CONSUMERS HAVE.  

If you are collecting any ‘personally identifiable’ information, even just a name and email, the requirement for a privacy policy is triggered.

Most countries have some sort of privacy policy requirement in place. There are requirements for what needs to be included in a website Privacy Policy, such as what type of information the website is collecting, what you are doing with that information, whether third-parties are involved, whether you collect cookies, etc.  

In the United States, The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys generally have jurisdiction and do find (and sue) websites that do not have proper privacy policies in place!

WHAT GOES IN A PRIVACY POLICY?

Below are some of the clauses that should be included in your Privacy Policy.

  • Data - What type of personal information is being collected and what do you intend to do with it?  For example, is it for marketing purposes or will you sell it?
  • Third Parties - If you are a business store uses a third-party service there may be requirements your site needs to meet to comply with their terms.
  • Cookies – Explains how you collect data and whether cookies are used
  • Links - Does your site link to third-party websites?   If so, you may need to include that your website does not necessarily comply with their privacy terms.
  • State laws - Some states have specific requirements for websites collecting information from consumers in their jurisdictions, such as California.
  • Updates - Include when the policy created and/or updated and how will consumers be notified of changes.

SO WHY DO YOU NEED ONE?

What would you say is the most important marketing piece of your business?  As a service-based entrepreneur, YOU (of course!) are the most important thing, but where does your business live?

Chances are good that your business lives on the internet. Or more specifically on a website.  Your website is your store front, where people can go to learn more about you.

And because of this, it deserves to be taken care. It deserves some love – and that includes legal.  You need to be protecting your website!  There are two super important pieces to this.

1. A Privacy Policy

2. Terms of Service + Disclaimers

These protect your online home, and because they are protecting your online home, they are protecting YOU.  Does your website have what it needs?

AND WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE ONE?

You can get banned from THE GOOGLE!! For violation of their Terms of Service, which if you use Analytics or other Google products – a Privacy Policy is REQUIRED.

A Privacy Policy for your website basically states that you won’t share email addresses or personal information that you collect with other 3rd party sites (except your email provider, etc).  It includes provisions for “cookies” and other communications.  

In the US, all websites must have this (thank you California) because ANY business that collects emails in California must comply with the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA) stating you have to have a Privacy Policy on your HOMEPAGE (or at least a link to it) - if you don't, Cali can come after you!  

Your business could be fined $2500 for not having a PRIVACY POLICY?  (Just ask Delta Airlines CALI brought a claim against them for over $37 million for not having one because EACH time someone clicks and its not there is considered a violation of CALOPPA)

Depending on what your website is about - the Federal Gov’t may also have an action to come say hello (and not in the hey, what's up way....)  

Most countries have such laws, and the Canada and the EU have some pretty extensive requirements.   If you have a website collecting emails, make sure you have this in place!  

YES, YOU REALLY DO NEED ONE.

To sum up:  The Top 5 Reasons You Need a Privacy Policy on Your Website

1.     It’s required by law (thank you California)

2.     Because Facebook says so (and if you run an ad through a landing page service (eg, Leadpages) and don’t have a link to your privacy policy – your Ad may not be approved.

3.     Because you are LEGIT biz owner and getting your legal foundations in place is a priority (way to go!)

4.     Your visitors have a right to know what you are doing with their ever-so-important personal information

5.     See number #1.

And no, It's not a good idea to copy from someone else's website- why? What you find online that another website is doing may be totally different than what you are doing, may not be drafted by a lawyer, may not include all the necessary clauses, and may actually hurt you. Plus, copyright infringement.

There you have it.  More than you probably ever wanted to know about Privacy Policies!