How to Write a Privacy Policy & Why You Need One

If your business has a web site, chances are you collect some form of information from users. A simple privacy policy can give visitors peace of mind while they peruse your site, and that can go a long way to creating a lasting relationship with them.

Why do I need a privacy policy?

Privacy Policy

If you’ve ever been the recipient of an email newsletter you didn’t sign up for or have had your dinner interrupted by a phone call from a telemarketer, you should be 100% pro-privacy policy. Why? A privacy policy is a written document, typically one page on a web site, that outlines the safety measures the web site undertakes in order to keep your personal information secure on the web and out of the hands of all those marketers looking to profit from your data. In essence, a privacy policy let’s you know how the web site owner will use your information and can offer an insight into which sites you should avoid.

What information should my privacy policy include?

(1) Explain the types of personal information you collect.

Identify to users what type of information you will collect on the web site and how it will be used. For example, if your site includes a contact form that requires information like name, mailing address, and cell phone number for submission, make sure your privacy policy lets people know their personal information will be used solely for the purpose of contacting them and will not be shared with or sold to a third party. The last thing you want to do to a new prospect is flood his inbox with spam or give his information to another company looking to sell to him - a great way to lose a customer’s trust, not to mention the customer himself.

It’s also important to note in your privacy policy if you have any kind of analytics software installed, as you would be passively collecting personal data like IP address and other demographic information. Make sure users understand that this information is used only for marketing analysis.

(2) Publicize changes to your privacy policy.

As your company changes over time, your privacy policy may need to be adapted to reflect your growth. Perhaps you add an e-commerce element to your site a few years down the road; your privacy policy should be amended to reflect those changes.

Moreover, your privacy policy should mention when and where changes to the privacy policy will be posted. iTunes, for example, requires all users to view its updated privacy policy / terms of service whenever they attempt to make a purchase after the document has been updated. Depending on the size and scope of your site, your update may be mentioned in a newsletter, as a temporary note on your home page, or via another method that works for you.

(3) Include your contact information.

Finally, include your contact information in the case that someone needs assistance with or has a question about your privacy policy. You do not necessarily need to include every form of contact available; a valid, business email address may suffice, depending on your needs.

Remember: a privacy policy is a symbol of openness and honesty on the web. Online businesses that offer privacy policies want customers to trust them, and the few minutes it takes to draft a privacy policy can go a long way in accomplishing that goal.

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