Your Quick Guide to Online Privacy Issue & Best Practice

Ever wonder whether you should have a privacy policy for your website? Creating a privacy policy honors your customers (and protects your business). This becomes important if and when your website collects personally identifiable information on a visitor.

While there is no law in the US (outside of California) requiring you to create a privacy policy – best practice indicates that a privacy policy shows respect to your customers while also providing protection to you from privacy-related noncompliance problems.  In other words, though you don’t have to do it – there are several reasons why you should.

  1. Respect for Customers – A privacy policy communicates to consumers that you care about keeping them safe online. This is a value added effort and professional way to conduct business. The Small Business Administration (SBA) states, “your online privacy policy is your company’s pledge to your customers about how you will use, not use, and protect the consumer data you collect from them.”
  2. Protecting Financial Information –  If you don’t have a policy in place, there are multiple ways people can get your company in trouble. If you collect any kind of information from people, such as in e-commerce, and their information is somehow stolen and traced back to your site; if you don’t have a privacy policy and security (SSL), you could face charges filed against you for noncompliance.
  3. Legal Obligation (in California) – There is no specific law governing privacy policy in every state (though the FTC does prohibit any deceptive practices). However, California’s (and other states) stricter laws often shape national standards, and inform the baseline practices of larger companies (California’s law California Online Privacy Protection Act of 2003 (OPPA) went into effect in 2004).


What’s in a Privacy Policy?


Your privacy policy is a pledge to your customers.  It should explain to them how you use, or do not use their customer information. Once you create a policy, it’s important you adhere to it and keep your promises. There are multiple ways to approach creating a privacy policy.  You may want to use another company’s policy (like Amazon, Apple, or someone in your industry) for reference, but it’s best to tailor any portion you copy to fit your situation.  Another approach is to search for online privacy policy generators to find one that will help you create your own policy.  Here at Effect we have used, which asks you a series of detailed questions and generates a comprehensive policy draft. Every company’s policy is different, but organizations such as the SBA have issued general guidelines that help you hit the mark.

Creating a privacy policy is a key component in a strong security plan regarding handling consumer information through your organization’s website.  As the Federal Trade Commission advises, “collect only what you need, keep it safe, and dispose of it securely to help you meet your legal obligations to protect that sensitive data.” Doing so protects your business and elevates your visitor’s experience when they visit your website, ensuring they are one step closer to giving you their trust.

Have questions about this Quick Guide?  Contact Web Advisor Steve Schmidt for a Free Strategy Session.

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