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5 Tips for better website Privacy policies

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Why should you care about having a Privacy Policy on your website?

Having a Privacy Policy is very beneficial – it can help you comply with privacy laws, thereby helping you avoid privacy-related fines and lawsuits, and it can help you should your customers that you care about their privacy. If you are not a privacy attorney though, you may be wondering about Privacy Policy best practices and how to ensure that your policy meets your goals.

Donata Stroink-Skillrud from Termaggedon has written an excellent article on the topic, that outlines the five Privacy Policy best practices that you should follow to ensure that your Privacy Policy adequately protects your business. Donata’s information is displayed below but we encourage you to view the original blog post and discover more on the issue of legal documentation and how Termageddon can help.

1. Review your website

While we will discuss in more detail who privacy laws apply to in the next section, privacy laws generally apply to websites that collect Personally Identifiable Information (PII). PII is defined as any information that could identify someone. Examples of PII that are commonly collected by websites include:

  • Names;
  • Emails;
  • Phone numbers;
  • Physical addresses; and
  • IP addresses.

Since privacy laws regulate the collection of PII, the first Privacy Policy best practice is to review your website to see what PII is collected where. You should pay particular attention to these features on your website as they are often used to collect PII:

  • Contact forms;
  • Email newsletter sign up forms;
  • Account creation forms;
  • eCommerce portals where consumers can make purchases; and
  • Analytics programs such as Google Analytics.

Once you have reviewed your website for these features and determined what PII you collect, you should also ask yourself:

  • How do I use the PII that I collect?
  • Who, if anyone, do I share this PII with?

Once you have reviewed your website, it is time to determine what privacy laws apply to you.

2: Determine which privacy laws apply to you

Privacy laws dictate the disclosures that your Privacy Policy needs to contain so the second Privacy Policy best practice that you need to undertake is to determine what privacy laws apply to you. A Privacy Policy that is not based on the laws that apply to you will not have all of the disclosures required by those laws and thus can leave you vulnerable to hefty fines and even lawsuits.

While privacy laws have a very broad application in the sense that they apply to businesses outside of the states or countries in which they are passed, they also have certain criteria that you need to meet for the law to apply to you. Therefore, you should not just assume that every privacy law applies to you, but you should determine your obligations.

  • Australia Privacy Act of 1988: applies to Australian organisations with an annual turnover of more than AUD $3,000,000 and the organisations outside of Australia that have an Australian link. It also applies to the following Australian organisations even if they have a turnover of less than AUD $3,000,000 per year:
    • Private sector healthcare providers;
    • Businesses that sell or purchase PII;
    • Credit reporting bodies;
    • Contracted service providers for Australian government contracts;
    • Employee associations registered or recognized under the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009;
    • Businesses that have opted in to comply with the law;
    • Businesses that are related to a business covered by the law; and
    • Businesses prescribed by the Privacy Regulation 2013.

If your business website sells or captures PII of citizens of countries other than Australia, you need to be aware of the laws that apply to them as well.

3: Include the necessary disclosures

The next best practice is to ensure that your Privacy Policy contains all of the disclosures required by the privacy laws that apply to you. Since each law had a very specific set of disclosures that are required, if you are drafting your Privacy Policy yourself, you will need to read those laws and make lists of the disclosures that you need to add. Depending on what laws apply to you, you may need to include some or all of the following information:

  • The effective date of your policy;
  • Your name and contact information;
  • What PII you collect;
  • Sources from which you collect the PII;
  • Purposes for which you will be using the PII;
  • Whether you share PII and, if you do, the categories of third parties with whom you share it;
  • How your website responds to Do Not Track signals;
  • How you will notify users of changes to your Privacy Policy;
  • Whether you sell PII – fi you do, you may need to make further disclosures regarding such sales;
  • Whether you use PII for targeted advertising and how individuals can opt out (this disclosure will start to be required in 2023);
  • A list of the privacy rights provided to consumers;
  • How a consumer can exercise their privacy rights;
  • How a consumer can appeal a decision made regarding a privacy rights request (this disclosure will start to be required in 2023);
  • How a user can complain to the authorities if they feel like their privacy rights have been infringed upon;
  • Legal bases under which you process PII;
  • How long you store PII;
  • Whether you use PII for direct marketing;
  • Whether you use PII for automated decision making or profiling;
  • Whether you transfer PII outside of certain countries or to an international organization;
  • Whether you have a Data Protection Officer. If you do have a Data Protection Officer, you will need to include their contact information in your Privacy Policy;
  • How you protect the PII that you collect;
  • Whether you use any type of analytics on your website such as Google Analytics; and
  • Whether you use cookies or other tracking technologies on your website.

While your Privacy Policy may not need all of the above disclosures, it is imperative that it does contain all of the disclosures that are required by the privacy laws that apply to you. Missing just one disclosure can mean that your Privacy Policy is not compliant, leaving you in danger of heavy fines or even lawsuits. Termageddon’s Privacy Policy generator will help you build a Privacy Policy that has these disclosures by asking you a series of questions. Your answers are then used to build a Privacy Policy that is specifically based upon the privacy laws that apply to you and your privacy practices.

4: Review your Privacy Policy (again)

Once your Privacy Policy has been created with all of the right disclosures, the next Privacy Policy best practice is to review it. While having a Privacy Policy is an excellent first step towards compliance, you also need to follow your Privacy Policy and the promises contained therein. For example, if your Privacy Policy states that you do not sell PII, you should not sell it until you update the policy and obtain appropriate consents from your customers where needed.

In addition, your Privacy Policy will also state where individuals can send their privacy rights request and how soon you will respond to those requests. Thus, it is important that you review your Privacy Policy and have a strategy in place for responding to consumer privacy rights requests and other requirements imposed by the privacy laws that apply to you.

5: Strategy for keeping your Privacy Policy up to date

Unfortunately, the days of putting your Privacy Policy on your website and never updating it again are over. With over 20 proposed state privacy bills in the United States, Canada’s proposed update to its privacy law, PIPEDA, and the United Kingdom considering an overhaul of its privacy legislation, it is more important than ever to have a strategy for keeping your Privacy Policy up to date with new laws and changes to Privacy Policy requirements. If you do not have the time to spend hours on tracking privacy bills across the world and for updating your Privacy Policy whenever those laws change, you can use Termageddon’s Privacy Policy generator – we will track privacy bills and laws for you and make updates whenever a new privacy law is passed or an existing privacy law is amended, saving you time and headache.

As you can see, there are several Privacy Policy best practices that will help you ensure that your Privacy Policy meets your goals of compliance with privacy laws. From reviewing your website, to determining what privacy laws apply to you, to keeping your Privacy Policy up to date, we hope that this guide has helped you make your Privacy Policy better

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Get in touch if you think your website needs a more robust Privacy page.
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