Web Security: Do I Need a Privacy Policy on My Website?

Surfing the web you may have spotted privacy policies on websites. Or maybe an enthusiastic web designer insists your business website needs a privacy policy. Regardless of what spurs the question, you may be wonder if you need this. The best way to understand when you need to give serious consideration to a privacy page, is to understand under which circumstances you may need one.

1.              Are You Collecting Anything? Some websites are like brochures that tell people about your business, but collect nothing from visitors.  Other websites are interactive, for example, collecting financial information to perform a sale, providing forms for visitors to send personal information, having a “login” area where users enter information and data is stored. Blogs are also interactive- little bits of information are collected when someone posts a comment.  Other sites are less obvious; they collect data by using cookies.  If you are collecting data from your web visitors, put visitors minds at rest by crafting a privacy policy that explains what you collect and how it will be used.

2.              Do You Connect to A Secure Site? So you’re not collecting credit card data or other information on your website, but using an outside service. You may feel confident that the shopping cart service or payment service (ie. PayPal) you use is secure and will be responsible for any breaches of security. You may feel secure the contact management company you use for your e-newsletter will protect email addresses.  However, your web visitors don’t know you are using an outside service who is responsible for security. Instill confidence by creating a short privacy statement that tells your web visitor who handles the collection of data orpayments and provide a link to that company’s privacy statement.

3.              Does Your Profession Demand Privacy? There are some professions for which your customers and clients have a higher expectation of privacy.  Physicians, lawyers, financial planners, and other professions where there is an exchange of personal or sensitive information must provide a high level of security and privacy. Even if you don’t plan to collect data or make a sale on your websites, your web visitors will feel more at ease if they know you are watching out for their security interests.

4.              Are You Required to Post a Privacy Policy?  Before you engage a service, check with them to see if you must post a privacy page. Some services like The Better Business Bureau may require you to post a privacy policy even if you collect no information or ever make a sale.

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