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What You Need to Know about Privacy Policies

A company’s privacy policy does not often get a lot of attention, but in some instances, like when Facebook was charged with violations in 2011, it can create quite the stir when there is a disparity between what you say you are doing and what you are actually doing. If you have a website in which you are collecting personal information from people, whether it is email addresses or credit card information, it is prudent to have a privacy policy. With this fact established, the next step to examine is what your privacy policy should address and how to craft one. Let’s take a look at a few basic facts and ideas to get you and your website on the right path.

Know the law…or someone who knows the law.

Unless your website is directed towards children under 13 or falls within a heavy-regulated industry, there are not a lot of federal regulations regarding privacy policies; however, there are state regulations. Since most websites, whether intentionally or not, attract users from numerous states, it is a good idea to abide by the most stringent of state laws. California is often cited as one state with particularly specific and strict privacy policy laws. Whether you decide to research state privacy policy law or consult with a lawyer on the front end of the process, it is always a good idea to have a lawyer look over your final draft.

Know what Google wants

If you are looking to utilize  Demographics and Interest Reporting in Google Analytics or one of Google’s Advertising Features, you will need to have a privacy policy on your website. Google requires this, and they delineate specifics as to what you will need to include in that privacy policy. Essentially, you will need to inform users what Google Analytics Advertising Features you have implemented, how you are using the information you are collecting, and how users can opt out of being tracked. Learn more about Google’s privacy policy requirements here.

Creating a privacy policy

There are three common ways in which you can create a privacy policy: Have a lawyer do it for you, do it yourself, or use a stock privacy policy. There are pros and cons with each approach, but in legal matters, it is always a good idea not to take potentially compromising shortcuts. Having a lawyer take care of the whole process is your safest bet, but it will also, more than likely, be your most expensive one.

If you are willing to take the time and energy to research and draft a privacy policy yourself, you can probably cover most of your bases and save money; but, once again, having a lawyer look over your draft is always a wise idea. A simple Google search will yield a great deal of helpful advice as to best practices in crafting a privacy policy.

 In some instances, a stock privacy policy may be sufficient. If there is a standard privacy policy that is used by others in your specific industry, and it directly applies to what you do, that standard policy may be appropriate. Once again, consulting a lawyer to make sure you are properly covered is always a good idea.

Will It affect my SEO?

Google wants to send users to webpages that are trustworthy. A webpage that is dedicated to how you collect and utilize user information on your website helps establish your trustworthiness. Also, if you have a stock or fairly standardized privacy policy, you may be worried about duplicate content issues, but Matt Cutts, who is the head of Google’s webspam team, has stated that “legal boilerplates are expected to be fairly standardized, so unless your privacy policy is spammy or keyword stuffed, you have nothing to worry about. Just resist the urge to offer replica luxury watches 100 times in your privacy policy, and you should be in good shape.

Final thoughts

Legally protecting yourself is always a good thing, so having an appropriate, lawyer-approved privacy policy on your website in a conspicuous place is a smart idea. Furthermore, creating a plan to revisit your privacy policy periodically is equally as important. As federal and state laws begin to start catching up with the pace of the Internet and technology, items like privacy policies are going to become increasingly important. Protecting yourself and staying ahead of the curve is always worth the effort.

For more information on best practices for crafting a privacy policy, please contact us.