What is a Privacy Policy and How Do I Create One?

What is a Privacy Policy and How Do I Create One?

We’re living in a golden age of big data and analytics. A dizzying array of web platforms are now able to offer us more information about consumers and key processes than we know what to do with, and that information can subsequently be used to improve a company’s offerings and make things run more efficiently.

But with great power comes great responsibility — and if you plan on using customer data in any way, shape or form, you’ve got to be 100 percent transparent about it. A lot of web users are understandably wary about giving away their personal information to people they don’t know. Bearing that in mind, if you’re keen on establishing a degree of brand trust between you and your customers, it’s essential you provide them with a little peace of mind by explaining how and why you might want their data.

The quickest and simplest way to do this is to publish a publicly accessible privacy policy on your website.

What is a Privacy Policy?

A privacy policy is a document that tells people who are visiting your website what information you collect from them and what you plan to do with it. Plenty of companies have been hit hard in recent years over a lack of transparency surrounding the privacy of customer details — and there can be some pretty serious financial repercussions if businesses are seen to be unclear or evasive about explaining its data policies.

That’s why, if you own a business, it is totally in your best interest to draft a short privacy policy. Even governments publish privacy policies. If you’re operating in particular industries, such as financial services, it might even be a legal requirement to spell this out. But even if you’re not legally obliged to publish a company privacy policy, it’s widely recommended. Not only does it build the foundation of a strong relationship with potential customers, but it also helps to create a better culture of transparency online more generally.

As a point of reference, the biggest aspect of a privacy policy is generally an explanation about Internet cookies on your website and how they’re used. This could include simple analytics exercises, third party advertising practices you may be taking part in or more advanced automated online shop processes.

How Do I Create a Privacy Policy?

If you need to draft a privacy policy for your company, it’s generally worth producing a dedicated page on your website for that policy. Most companies offer fairly generic privacy policies — but depending upon what you do and what industry you operate in, you may be legally obliged to include extra information. When in doubt, you should always seek legal help or advice from the relevant professional body.

But by and large, a typical privacy policy should start with a brief introduction introducing your company and why you’ve drafted a privacy policy. This should then be followed by a brief explanation of what cookies are and what information you collect form visitors to your website.

This will need to include any obvious, personally identifiable information such as a person’s name, contact details or credit number. But you must also list information about whether you’re keeping track of a customer’s order history, uploads or downloads of browsing habits.

You must then subsequently explain why you are gathering this information — for example, you may be tracking a visitor’s user journey in order to improve your website, or gathering browsing habits to provide feedback that will influence the look, feel and design of your website. Likewise, you might have enrolled your site in a third-party advertising scheme that uses a person’s browsing history in order to show them tailored ads on your own site. Either way, you need to spell it out clearly and concisely.

Bearing in mind that a lot of customers aren’t keen on cookies or tailored ads, it’s generally best practice to include a section in your privacy policy outlining how visitors to your site can easily accept or reject cookies.

When writing your privacy policy, you’ve got to remember it must be written in plain speak. Don’t resort to legal mumbo jumbo that doesn’t mean anything, or it will repel visitors. Produce a policy that is designed and written in a style that you would value as a customer. It should be short and intuitive, and is your opportunity to tell would-be customers why cookies are good and how gathering information helps you provide them with better services or content.

Finally, your privacy policy must be easily accessible throughout your website. A lot of companies achieve this by including a link to their privacy policy page at the bottom of their website, or in a clearly labelled ‘about us’ section. If you need help getting started, there are plenty of websites that offer decent, generic privacy policy templates

Privacy Policy Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “What is a Privacy Policy and How Do I Create One?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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