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How to Write a Privacy Policy for Your Website

A privacy policy can help you build trust and protect your business from legal issues. Use this guide to learn how to write a website privacy policy.

A privacy policy is implemented because of how businesses handle digital data. It's used to communicate how companies take that information in all cases. Therefore, a privacy policy is a statement describing how a website collects, uses, and manages personal information.

A privacy policy can appear in just about any medium as long as it's formally presented to the person or entity owning the personal or applicable information. For example, these agreements could appear in print, on a website, on a computer or mobile device, on a signup form, and so on. Because of the legal implications, users can often request and receive a printed version of a privacy policy.

Ensuring your business has a clear privacy policy is vital to establishing consumer trust and maintaining legal compliance.

Privacy policy definition: A statement that describes how a website collects, uses, and managers the personal data of consumers.

What is a privacy policy?

A privacy policy is a statement that describes how a website collects, uses, and manages the personal data of consumers.

This type of policy must often include many explanations, including detailed descriptions of the who, what, where, when, and why of your data collection processes. It should also provide insight into which entities will have access to this consumer data, how that information is physically handled, what the data is being used for, and the amount of information needed for collection.

Ensuring your website has a privacy policy page protects your business from breaking the law and builds trust.

Why your website needs a privacy policy

Ensuring your website design has a privacy policy page protects your business from breaking the law and builds trust.

At the time of this article, there are no federal laws mandating the use of a website privacy policy. However, entities that collect personal information could find themselves adhering to state laws aimed at protecting consumer privacy and consumer rights laws enabled by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which regulates consumer data protection in the United States.

One only needs to consult their internet search engine to realize the costliness of privacy disputes. Whether the company is in the right or not, the expense of litigation is reason enough to take preemptive measures in privacy matters. Any website collecting personal data to identify an individual must provide a privacy policy as international laws require.

Many third party sites, such as commercial selling platforms and others, must have a privacy policy, which protects their third-party interest. Protective measures like privacy policies build goodwill with clients and ultimately attract more business, leading to greater profits and income. In general, keeping a website privacy policy is an excellent idea for remaining compliant with various laws and rules.

Websites don't have legal obligations and aren't mandated to have a privacy policy, but there are state and federal regulations that protect digital consumer data.

Location and data protection laws

Depending on where a company conducts its business, various rules and laws can significantly affect it.

For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act gives consumers the right to know about any and all information collected, where their personal data goes, and how the company will use their personal information. This act also provides the right to retract any submitted data and opt out in order to not have any of their personal information used by a specific company. Additionally, the act ensures protection against discrimination in response to their applicable rights.

Some of the primary international privacy laws include:

  • Australia: The Privacy Act of 1988 requires all Australian companies to offer a privacy policy. The act regulates the handling of personal information, including data collection, usage, storage, and disclosure.
  • UK: The Data Protection Act of 1988 requires any entity that collects data to offer a privacy policy. There are also rules regarding the length of time personal information should be kept, how it's maintained, and the degree to which the data collected is relevant to its application.
  • Canada: The PIPEDA is the Personal Information Protection and Electronics Documents Act, which requires a company to have a privacy policy and use simple and easy-to-understand language. It also mandates companies to be available for any questions.
  • EU: In the EU, companies must have a privacy policy describing how personal information is processed and the legal basis for processing it. Furthermore, the DPO or EU representative must be listed if consumers should want further information about their rights.

If you have any questions about your legal obligation, you can contact your local data protection authority.

How to write a privacy policy for your website

When creating a privacy policy, businesses may have to customize their privacy terms depending on the industry.

Next, a company must decide the following:

  • What information needs to be collected, and how to notify consumers prior to interacting with the application?

  • Why does personal data need to be collected? Is there a law requiring such information? Is it necessary to make the site operational or to custom-tailor the consumer experience?

  • How is data collected? Is it mainly through online surveys that need entries? Or does the collection of data operate through site cookies?

It's also a good idea to explain the relationship consumer data has with third party services. If the company will share their information and whether or not it's necessary. Advise on whether the agreement will be updated and if the company plans to send notifications of any changes to customers. Lastly, describe how the information being submitted will be protected in terms of technology–for example, encryption techniques and so forth.

List the information your website collects

It’s good practice to list the information your website collects. Doing so allows consumers to see the type of data that’ll be in your hands, allowing them to decide whether they want to stay on your site.

Will your website collect emails, home or business addresses, IP addresses, and credit cards? Will the site gather personally identifiable information, such as full names, date of births, or social security numbers? Is analytics data, including browsing history and downloads, being collected?

Describe the reasoning for collecting this information

Is the site collecting information to comply with the law? If so, a formal notification stating exactly how and which laws make it necessary to collect such personal data. Is it to improve the quality of information for research purposes and so on? Does it help the collector process certain information about its users so that it can provide some type of diagnosis or service?

List how your website collects this information

Websites can collect personal data in various ways, making this a critical disclosure. Will it use cookies that could potentially expose previous financial transactions recorded on a user's computer, browser fingerprinting, pixel tags, and so forth?

Discuss what the data will be used for

First-party data tracking may focus on the actions a consumer takes on their website to improve the consumer experience or necessary functions pertaining to their purchase. In contrast, third-party tracking will likely be sent to a marketing company, which may be collecting information for several different websites. Compared to first-party tracking, third-party monitoring might be more invasive and personal.

Write how you’ll inform users of privacy policy changes

Because the website will need to remain consistent and up to date with all of its privacy policies, regular notification will be required. Some methods include notifying customers via pop up, website banners, post mails, email messages, blogs, or news posts. Always explain why those policies are changing.

Provide a way for users to contact you about your privacy policy

Businesses should first check whether there are any specific requirements for privacy policies for websites. Some regulations require companies to provide their contact information in order to respond to customer inquiries.

However, even if it isn't legally required, a contact email is recommended as the most basic contact method. It's advisable to include a mailing address and a phone number. Ensuring consumer contact is another way for companies to avoid legal problems down the road.

Create your statement on protecting personal data

A statement on how the submitted information is protected will be attractive to the technically savvy user and is vital for building trust. Are there any computer safeguards or file and data storage security methods you can use in your privacy statement? Some consumers are wary of their data falling into the hands of third party service providers, so you can ease their worries with this information.

Privacy policy compliance

If you collect information at your business, a privacy policy can demonstrate to those interacting with your brand that you take data protection seriously. As such, they may find your organization more trustworthy, which can help sway consumers in your favor. Keep the points above in mind as you create a privacy policy for your website.

In addition to privacy terms, there are many ways to keep consumer information safe. Mailchimp utilizes 24/7 physical security with biometric scanners, the latest tech to secure its data, and DDOS mitigation at all data centers. It also has an infrastructure continuity plan in case of a nuclear attack. All data is also kept separate to prevent corruption.

While we can't provide legal advice or a sample privacy policy, we make it easy for you to display your privacy terms on your Mailchimp website.

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