In Meyer Law's Blog

The age of the internet is the age of no privacy and anyone that browses the internet knows that many websites collect information about the use of their website including user’s personal information. Some industries are regulated to maintain a privacy policy (i.e. medical professionals and banks), but if you are not within a regulated industry, you should still consider adopting a privacy policy to help demonstrate the credibility of your website or mobile application and provide certain assurances to your users. Many users want to see assurances that their personal information will not be sold or used in marketing efforts where they have not previously consented, among other things.

Simply put, a privacy policy is a legal document on your website that details your views and procedures on the information collected from users, which is designed to protect your company from lawsuits and to protect everyone involved from having their information shared without their knowledge or consent. If it is properly written, your privacy policy will be transparent towards your users about what is happening with the types of information collected and the way they interact with your website, which ultimately allows you to improve how you serve your customers.

While the legal website privacy requirements vary from state to state — California and Texas both have laws stipulating transparency for any company that collects personal information — there are many constants at a federal level. For example, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act limits the information websites are allowed to collect from children under 13 years of age. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act requires website owners to notify copyright owners of any copyright infringement the website observes. Some of these laws require mention in the privacy policy, while some of them don’t, which is why it’s important to consult with a legal expert before finalizing your privacy policy.

Although there are a number of guidelines for writing a comprehensive privacy policy, it is important to keep in mind that your website has different needs and operates in different ways than most other businesses, and as such copying language from other websites’ privacy policies can be very risky because contract language that works for one situation may leave you unprotected in another. A better option is to tailor your privacy policy specifically to your business and website. Many websites have been penalized due to misinforming their users about how they use their personal information; therefore, it is important to make sure your privacy policy reflects the views and procedures of your company in order to prevent legal problems in the future.

Don’t bury your privacy policy in a hard-to-find place. Great effort should be made to craft a privacy policy that is accurate, easy to understand and clearly visible. Users have a right to know what information you are collecting whether it be personal information that identifies them as an individual or information collected on an aggregate basis such as information logged by your servers, cookies, hostnames and internet protocol addresses. A privacy policy should also include how the information is being stored and/or used as well as your collection methods. It is important to be as transparent as possible and you should also provide contact information to allow users to contact you with questions or give them the ability to opt out of certain features.

Privacy policies are becoming part of common business practice and are not only important to your company but to your users as well. Having a privacy policy provides assurances to your users, helps eliminate misunderstandings and keeps you accountable for the data you collect.