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Tips for Writing a Website Privacy Policy

writing a website policy.jpgCreating an effective privacy policy is an important and unavoidable part of the website development process. If you’re using your website to the fullest, it’s doing a whole lot more than passively providing information about your business–and your customers need to know exactly how that affects their privacy rights.

From a legal perspective, individuals who visit your business website should be informed of their rights and the tools your website will use to further company goals. While privacy policies are not strictly required by law, they are nonetheless a standard practice that makes smart business sense, for the protection of both your business and your website visitors.

From a consumer perspective, customers and website surfers need to understand what details you collect, why you collect them, and what options they have if they prefer to withhold their personal information. Look to the Federal Trade Commission or the Small Business Administration for examples of professional, thorough privacy policies that address all potential concerns.

Good privacy policies cover legal grounds, provide solid explanations of how information might be used, and offer guarantees for how it will not be used. They’re part disclosure, part promise, and should be crafted to reassure customers about your honest intentions and commitment to keeping their private information safe.

Below are some tips for writing a clear, customer-friendly privacy policy for your business website—one that offers both information and reassurances for consumer privacy concerns.

  • Use clear, uncomplicated language. Avoid excessive jargon and provide explanations of terms where needed so your customers can clearly understand. What good is a privacy policy that’s too convoluted for your customers to comprehend?
  • Explain what, how, and why. Provide a list of what details you will be collecting, so your customers know what information they’re entrusting to your care. They also need to know how you’re collecting it, especially if you’re using cookies. A good cookie policy is an essential component for all websites that use cookies to store consumer preferences and shopping cart contents. Your business should be clear about all details to be collected and the purpose they serve—and all those purposes should ultimately benefit the customer’s purchasing experience.
  • Follow specialized privacy laws, particularly if collecting data from children. For websites that may receive traffic from children under 13, make sure you’re in compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Other requirements may apply for certain industries or target populations. Make sure you research regulations thoroughly to understand any specialized privacy protections that may be applicable to your business website.
  • Seek third-party validation seals. Consumers usually feel just a bit safer when you add a third-party validation seal to your business website. For a small fee, there are companies that can help you with privacy policy creation or review and that will audit your website yearly to test compliance. With their reassurance, your site will appear more secure—and their assistance could even help you improve your website’s privacy and policy adherence capabilities.
  • Follow your policy. Probably the most important aspect of privacy policies is adherence. Obviously, you’ve created a policy for your business website for a reason. That reason shouldn’t be to offer empty lip service to your customers. Once published, your company is ethically obligated to follow its own procedures, and your organization should be committed to upholding the highest of standards with regard to its stated commitments. Be prepared to follow through, and be careful to ensure your IT security practices are up to the task.

Privacy policies may not be a directly stated requirement in the business world, but neither are websites in general. However, we all know how much not having a website in modern business can limit a company’s access to potential customers. Privacy policies are similar, in that they are an unspoken standard, though the requirement to uphold honest and clear practices will be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission regardless of your stated policies.

Ultimately, it’s better to be direct about your practices and set consumer expectations up front in order to avoid any confusion. Your customers will respect your ethical approach, and your business website will only benefit from the added professionalism a well-worded privacy policy will provide.
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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author – Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Pexels