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How to Create a Website Privacy Policy

If you have a business website, then no matter its use, you need to have a strong privacy policy. If you do not have a website privacy policy in place, you could be putting your business and your website at risk. Before diving into how to create a strong privacy policy for your website, this article will detail what it is and some of the main reasons to consider developing one.

What Is a Privacy Policy and How Is It Used?

A privacy policy is a legal statement or document that discloses the ways a party is gathering information from another party. Additionally, it should outline how the business plans on using this information and how the business plans on managing the information that they obtain. This statement fulfills a legal requirement to help protect the privacy of a customer or client.

Personally identifiable information (PII) is anything that can be used to identify someone. This could include:

  • their name,
  • their birthday,
  • their marital status,
  • their address,
  • any other contact information,
  • medical information, and
  • credit card information.

Depending on what information is collected, companies may need to include special clauses that pertain to that information specifically. Privacy policies are used to protect both customers and the company that is using them.

Privacy Statement

A privacy statement may be a physical document or it may be housed on a website. In today's world, however, you are more likely to see it on a website than anywhere else because the Internet is so prevalent and many people use it as their way of communicating with the companies that they do business with.

Key Reasons Why You Need a Privacy Policy

There are many reasons why you should have a privacy policy. These are some of the most general reasons for the market, but you may discover that there are more specific reasons to have one based on the nature of your website.

  • Gain trust from visitors – With so many scams on the Internet these days, it is important to do everything possible to build trust with the users of websites. This is one of the key ways you can do exactly that from the beginning. Additionally, you can better showcase that you have a privacy statement by using privacy safe trust seals. These are images that you can place on your website that will show any visitors that your privacy policy is active and up to date. This addition can also increase the level of trust between you and any visitors to your website.
  • Help your visitors relax – There are many worries about privacy when people visit websites that they are not familiar with, so just by having a privacy policy on your website that can be referenced, you can help them to feel better about using your website. This will allow users to feel more comfortable using your website, and they will likely use it longer or more often, and may even take the time to refer their friends and family to your website. This can result in a more profitable website.
  • It allows you to abide by third-party requirements – There are some companies, such as Apple and Google, that will require you to have a privacy policy on your website. This is the case even if you are not collecting sensitive personal data. If you are using a third-party service for collecting data or to display advertisements, then you will be collecting personal data and the third party will require you to inform your visitors through your privacy policy. If you do not have a privacy policy, you may not even be allowed to do business with this additional party and it can hinder your business. This will also prevent your website from being suspended or taken down. If you have a mobile app for your website, you will be required by app stores to have a privacy policy linked before you are approved. If your privacy policy cannot be located by a user, then your app could be terminated or suspended. Additionally, if your website does not have one, then Google may stop indexing your website and it will be as if it does not exist because it will not show up in searches.
  • You may be legally required to have one – In most states, you are legally required to display a privacy policy of some sort. This is the case if you are collecting, storing, or sharing data such as emails, payment information, and names. If you are doing any of this, you will have to explain your plans for this information in your privacy policy by law.
  • You can better protect yourself – If you fail to follow your local laws or you do not have a privacy policy while you are collecting and using data, you are opening yourself up for potential legal matters. You should always aim to have a complete privacy policy instead of not having it at all or having a questionable one. You do not want to end up in the same situation that other companies, such as Delta Airlines, have found themselves in due to missing this key component of your website. This one statement on your website can provide you with a lot of legal protection when done correctly. It can also help you to protect your money. One consequence of not having a privacy policy is that you may run into issues that include large fines. These can be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and are required when you do not have an active or complete privacy policy according to the local and federal laws. You do not want to pay these fines if you do not have to.

How to Create a Privacy Policy

Creating a privacy policy is much more than simply writing a few sentences and calling it a day. As it is a legal document, there are many different legal components that need to be thought through so that you can develop something that will better protect all parties. Many of the larger companies around today have a team of lawyers develop this for them, but many people do not have this added luxury. For smaller companies, it is important to know the right steps to get started and the key components that you need to have covered as a result. Here are some helpful tips for creating your privacy policy statement:

  • Use plain English – Even though it is a legal document and you should include some legal language, you should also make sure that you keep it as easy to read as possible. Keep in mind that the people who will be reading this will be your customers and website visitors so you want to make sure that they can understand everything that you have listed in your privacy statement. Most people may not understand legal jargon, and while you may need to include this terminology, you should do your best to make it as easy to read as possible.
  • Determine the kind of information you will be collecting – You should have a good idea of what information you will be collecting and why. You cannot collect information for the sake of collecting it. You must have a legitimate reason for collecting this data; if you do not, then you should cease collecting it as a result. For every piece of information, you must have a good reason and be able to identify your plans for the information, including whether or not you will be sharing it with another party or a third-party vendor.
  • Determine who you will be sharing information with – If you are going to be sharing information with other sites or a third party, you need to detail this in your privacy policy. You may need to list these companies by name and then detail what you will be sharing with them and why. This will allow your website users to determine if this is something they want to happen to their information before using your website.
  • Review your local and federal laws – You should know what the law states in your area before you start writing anything in your privacy policy. Before you do anything else, you should actively abide by all of the laws and make sure you are incorporating these in your privacy policy. You should not go against your local laws to best suit your personal needs. Additionally, you should never guess about these items because it could lead you to trouble. Always verify that the laws you are using are the most current laws.
  • Update your policy regularly – This is intended to be a living, breathing document and you want to make sure that you update your policy and website terms of use regularly as things change in the market or in your business. You should plan on taking a look at this at least quarterly and then taking a deep dive into it yearly. Additionally, any time anything changes, you should make an update to ensure that your policy is never out of date. Make this a regular practice so you do not have any potential legal issues that pop up as a result of negligence when updating your privacy policy.
  • Do not ask for information you do not need – While it may be easy to simply ask for a lot of information from people, you should only ask for the information that you need. Additionally, you should not ask for information that is intrusive unless it is necessary. If you do need something more personal, you should explain why it is necessary.
  • Make sure the data you store is secure – If you plan on storing information, you must make sure that all of the data is secure at all times. Security breaches are becoming more and more common every year and you do not want to be the next victim simply because you did not do your due diligence to ensure that the information was secure. You should consider investing in a strong infrastructure as well as always looking for new ways to make it even stronger. If the data is breached, it could lead to a lot of other potential issues that you will have to deal with.
  • Allow users and visitors to opt out – You cannot force everyone to provide you with their personal information. You need to make sure that you provide your users and visitors with a way that they can opt out of sharing their information with you if they wish to do so.
  • Make sure it is easy to find – The last thing you want is to spend a lot of time creating your privacy policy only to find out that no one can locate it on your website. When you are deciding where you should place this policy, you need to make sure it can be easily located and read by all of your visitors.
  • Follow your policy at all times – Now that you have put so much time and energy into creating a privacy policy, you need to make sure that you are following it at all times. Not only should you make sure that you are doing what you say that you will be doing, but you do not want to deceive your customers into thinking that they are safe when they are really not.

By having this information ready from the beginning and knowing how you want to detail the information, creating your privacy policy will be even easier for you. The process can be long, but it does not have to be complicated if you already have decisions made and know what you plan on doing with all of the data that is collected from your customers. Also, knowing what should be included can help you to better protect your business as well as all of your customers and visitors.

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