Why Your Website Needs A Privacy Policy And What It Should Include

By Kris LaGreca

Why Your Website Needs A Privacy Policy And What It Should IncludeNew Possibilities Group

A privacy policy may not be the first thing you think of when developing or redesigning your website. But at the same time, it's an absolute must, regardless of your industry. Keep reading to learn why your website needs a privacy policy, what it should include, and how to go about getting one.

3 Reasons Your Website Needs a Privacy Policy

Before getting into the details on how to obtain a privacy policy, let's examine why you need one in the first place. Here are some compelling reasons that should convince you to at least seek more information.

  1. Legal Compliance. If you operate in the medical profession, or if you collect any type of financial information from your visitors, you don't have much of a choice. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also requires a privacy policy if you collect information from children 13 years or younger. In addition, some states - such as California - require all businesses to disclose what they do with any personal data collected by their websites.
  2. Website Usability. Many of the services you will use to promote your business require your website to have a privacy policy. For example, Google requires all marketers who want to take advantage of its Analytics platform to keep an updated privacy policy on their website.
  3. Branding Opportunities. Anytime you collect visitor information on your site, a privacy policy can help accomplish your goals. Most internet users are apprehensive about giving out their personal information, even if the required fields only include their contact info. A privacy policy helps you establish credibility, letting your visitors know that you care about their data.

What a Privacy Policy Should Contain

Within your privacy policy, you should outline exactly what happens to your visitor data once you collect it on your website. Write as clearly as possible, with language aimed at regular visitors instead of lawyers. More specifically, here's what your privacy policy should include:

  • Whether data collected is connected to users, anonymous, or both.
  • What exact data you collect, and for what purpose.
  • How you collect your data (cookies, sign up forms, shopping carts, etc).
  • Whether you share any of the information with partners and/or affiliates.
  • A note that you will disclose any information if compelled by law.
  • An option for visitors to opt out of having their data collected.
  • An outline of how visitors will know once you update your privacy policy (which should happen periodically).

3 Options for Getting a Privacy Policy

If you don't know where to start in getting your privacy policy, don't worry - a number of services can help you get there. Here are the most common:

An automatically generated privacy policy is undoubtedly the easiest way to get your documentation up to par. Services like PrivacyPolicies.com allow you to plug in a few variables, and use that information to create a full document ready for your website for as little as $20.

You can also create your own privacy policy based on a template, such as the one provided by the Better Business Bureau. This requires a bit more manual work, plugging in your variables within natural language, but is completely free.

Finally, you can directly approach a lawyer in your search for website privacy documentation. This is undoubtedly the most complex and expensive version of the process, but also ensures that your document complies with all laws and eventualities.

In short, you need a privacy policy, and it should include a number of important variables. But what is the best way to get one that ensures you make the most of the benefits such documentation provides? Ultimately, the answer to that depends on your individual business.

If you operate in an industry that requires extensive documentation (such as healthcare), a free template is probably not enough to get you a privacy policy that accounts for all eventualities. If, however, you simply use your website to generate leads, that template may be sufficient. As is the case in all aspects of website development, the correct answer depends on your business processes and goals.

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