Privacy Policies: What They Are, and Why You Might Need One

Monday, April 16th, 2018
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Chances are, if you have ever browsed any major website in your life, you have encountered a privacy policy. And chances are if you yourself own and operate a website, you have probably put one on your site. Now, despite what you might think, almost all websites require a privacy policy, but not everyone understands just why privacy policies are so important. Here are some reasons your site may need a privacy policy, and what exactly they are.

What is a Privacy Policy?

Basically, a privacy policy is a public notice that accurately discloses the personal information a company collects from customers and other members of the public, as well as how it collects stores, protects, uses, and distributes such information. A privacy policy may also inform how they can access the information collected about them and what choices they have to review, and perhaps delete such information. One of the most important, if not, THE most important aspect of any privacy policy, is that it must accurately reflect your company’s practices. Therefore, if your company changes anything about how it collects information, or any other major change, it is that company’s responsibility to change the privacy policy to reflect the company changes.  Nearly all websites are implementing privacy policies somewhere on their pages. Whether it be a website dedicated to e-commerce, or a government website, or even a simple one page HTML site, chances are, if you look for it, you’ll find one. The reason most websites require a privacy policy is that websites use cookies to track and monitor activity. Cookies are small pieces of data that a website sends to the user’s web browser, which the browser then stores on the user’s computer. Cookies can be used to record the user’s browsing activity, such as what buttons the user may click on the website, or which pages the user visited. Cookies can also remember user information, such as names, addresses, passwords, and even credit card numbers. You know how Google is able to fill in all of your information automatically on certain sites that ask for names and addresses? That’s because of cookies.

SEE ALSO: 5 Pages Most Web Designs Should Include (That You May Not Have Thought of)

How to implement your Privacy Policy

Now that you know a bit more about what a privacy policy is, it is important to know how to implement on your own site. There are two distinct methods in which you can have your privacy policy on your site. There is the option of using the browsewrap method of Privacy Policy, in which your policy is small writing down the bottom of your page like you have probably seen in many other e-commerce stores, where your customers are presumed to have read your agreement by browsing your store. In a browsewrap agreement, a hyperlink on the site, usually in the footer, shows the terms and conditions for the site. By browsing a site, the browsewrap method assumes the user agrees to the site’s policies, even if they haven’t actually read privacy policy itself. But because browsewrap agreements do not require the user to acknowledge them before using a website, this has caused users and courts to question the legality of the policy. In fact there are certain court cases in which the legality of the method was successfully argued against (ex. Vitacost.com, Inc. v. James McCants)

Then there is the clickwrap method, in which users actually click to show their agreement (or consent) in some way. You can do this with a tick box or pop up, and it is generally considered the better way for your users, at least in regards to a legal perspective. Typically, the user must agree to the terms and conditions of the site before they can actually access the website. This avoids any of the issues that the browsewrap method has in regards to the legality of a privacy policy.

How can you learn about the law of a privacy policy?

Now, it is important to remember that we are not lawyers. The information you have received is just some general information that can help you when deciding if your sites privacy policy. That being said, it is important to know the law in regards to privacy policies. In the United States, there is no general privacy law or data protection law for e-commerce stores or websites. However, the California Online Privacy Protection Act of 2003 requires that operators of commercial websites are required to display a Privacy Policy. You might think this only applies to sites that are based out of California, but if you have customers in California, then you will need to apply this law to your site. This is similar to any companies that might be doing business with people from the UK, Europe, Canada, and other countries.

For any legal advice on how best to implement a privacy policy on your site, we would recommend consulting a law office, or even seeing about the possibility of having a privacy policy written out for you with online help. Whatever you choose, just remember, your privacy policy must be accurate and truthful to your company and its goals.

Phillip

Technical Support, WEBii

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