Create A Privacy Policy for Your Website

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… and yes, It IS a big deal!

Imagine one day working in your business. You are pleased with the growth and are hoping next year will be even bigger. A knock comes to your door. You open it not expecting any problems, in fact, you are just seconds away from your world being turned upside down.
A constable hands you a summons to appear or respond to a civil complaint from someone you may not have ever have done business with is suing you. How can this be? $10,000 worth of lawyer’s fees later you realize that you were sued over your stated privacy policy on your website.

Don’t think it can happen?
“Whether we like it or not, the courts are getting more and more involved in privacy matters.”
That scary quote comes from an article written by Andrea Reichenbach for Acxiom.

Need more proof?
Check out the Wikipedia article on privacy laws

Recently enacted California laws make it possible for you to be sued if you are discovered to be in noncompliance with specific disclosures and practices. Does your website reach into California? That surprisingly is enough to put you in hot water with the California civil courts. Even if you are not doing business in California you could find yourself in trouble with their recently enacted laws.

For many companies, their privacy policy is one of two things.
1. Their privacy policy is nonexistent
2. Their privacy policy is an afterthought.

Do either of these describe your ‘privacy policy’?

Those that fall into the ‘afterthought’ category they may have simply downloaded a copy of a copy of a 1999 privacy policy from a company in a different industry. it is a boilerplate afterthought. This can be an expensive mistake. It is an unforced error that you can and should avoid. Fortunately, it is an easy problem to fix.

The safest and best, but unfortunately most expensive solution: go to an attorney that specializes in intellectual property. This, however, can be expensive.
There are other ways to get a great privacy policy. Fortunately, you don’t necessarily need an attorney to write your privacy policy. There are a couple of great online tools that can help you to craft an excellent online privacy policy.

Three essential elements of a great privacy policy

1. Your use of cookies

Cookies are files on your computer that contain personal settings for specific websites. Cookies identify and store what you have done on a specific website. They can remember, for example, that you have previously opted into a lead magnet download. They can also track where and when you have visited specific parts of their websites.
Your privacy policy should contain your policy for collecting and storing cookies. Some cookies persist only as long as a user is actually on your site while others remain for days weeks, months or even permanently.

2. What types of information is collected

This is the crucial element of most privacy policies. It explains the exact information that is collected. For example, you should identify the information can identify a specific person or simply a specific computer or network. Cookies might recognize that a certain user by his or her computer IP address. This could identify that an anonymous person living in a general location such as a country or a state has been on the site. In that case, the website can recognize activity without connecting that information to a specific identifiable person. Cookies might also store information about a specific individual. The information contained would generally have to have first been given by the visitor on a previous encounter. Cookies can contain information about location, preferences, names, phone numbers, and email addresses.
All of that data collection needs to be carefully spelled out in your privacy policy so the visitor can decide if they want to continue to use that site.

3. What the website will do with the information

Many websites share, sell, trade or rent user data. These other services can use this information on other websites as you travel around the internet. This is the process that most Internet users have seen. You go to a website then immediately start seeing ads from that company or its competitors. Some websites use this information to enforce terms of use or to alter your experience.
For example, some airline and hotel websites have even been found to alter pricing for tickets based on where the visitor has traveled in past web encounters. If you routinely go to the high end or luxury websites you might find a higher price for your next hotel. If you routinely go to bargain or other websites that cater to lesser incomes, you might find a lower price but with fewer perks.
Three great online services to help you generate a privacy policy.
These sites have competitors that might be more to your liking. In any case be sure you are comfortable with the end result of their work. It is never a bad idea to run your completed privacy policy past a competent attorney. Be sure the attorney you choose has experience in and a familiarity with the complexities of intellectual property law. Not every attorney has this highly technical and highly specialized knowledge and experience.

Three free and simple online solutions

1. IUBENDA

Iubenda is a free online website privacy policy generator that also has paid upgrade services. It is very easy to use. You select the modules you need and want to create your privacy policy. Once you have selected a module you have the ability to customize it to meet your specific needs.

2. TERMSFEED

TermsFeed allows for the quick and easy generation of basic privacy policies. It uses a questionnaire wizard to guide visitors through the process. This is a free online website that also has paid upgrade services. Once the process is completed an email is generated to give you your newly created privacy policy.

3. SHOPIFY PRIVACY POLICY GENERATOR

This privacy policy generator is limited to Shopify websites. It lets you generate a privacy policy that meets Shopify’s guidelines. Like the other services, this tool allows you to customize the basic modules that are selected.

Play with the options, even if your website offers the most simple service, even if you do not request people’s information. You need to spend a time to come with a privacy policy. For your safety. For your business protection.

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