What is a Privacy Policy?

Sep 21, 2022 | Business, Contracts

Privacy policies are legal statements that inform your website visitors about how you collect, process, and manage their personal data. A privacy policy also explains how your website visitors can limit the data they share with you.

Privacy policies are a necessary component of every website that collects user data, including e-commerce websites, agency sites, blogs, small-to-large scale business websites, and more.

Many websites use different names to identify its privacy policy. A privacy policy page can be also known as “Privacy Information”, a “Privacy Notice”, a “Privacy Page”, or a “Statement of Privacy”.

What is the Purpose of a Privacy Policy?

According to some reports, around 63% of the world’s population has access to the internet. Approximately 5 billion people use the internet to seek information and to buy and sell products and services every year.

The primary purpose of a privacy policy is to give visitors more control over the data they share, and to compel businesses to act more transparently. A well-drafted privacy policy also creates a level of trust between consumers and businesses.

Moreover, in many cases, including a privacy policy on a business website is legally necessary.

Essential U.S. Privacy Laws

Although the U.S. does not have a federal privacy act that governs data protection, there are federal regulations that provide guidelines on consumer protection matters, and individual states have their own privacy laws.

For example, if your business is based in California or is targeting residents of California, you must follow the regulations of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which requires businesses to outline their privacy practices on its website.

Similarly, if your business targets consumers residing in Virginia, your business must comply with the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (CDPA). The following federal regulations can assist you in developing a privacy policy for your business if your target market is based anywhere in the U.S.

  • The Federal Trade Commission Act – Regulates certain commercial practices;
  • Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act – Governs any deception and disclosure through email marketing;
  • Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act – Protects children below the age of 13;
  • Electronic Communications Privacy Act – Protects certain digital communications from misuse; and
  • Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – Makes unauthorized computer and data access illegal.

Drafting a privacy policy requires an in-depth knowledge of privacy law. Schedule a consultation with Elana Greenway Faniel, Esq., a business and intellectual property attorney based in Florida, to assist you in drafting a privacy policy for your business.

Essential International Privacy Laws

If you run a business that has a global reach or has website visitors from all around the world, you must to refer to International Privacy Laws while creating a privacy policy for your website.

For example, if your company has visitors, customers, or clients from Europe, it is essential to follow the guidelines set by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in storing, collecting, and publishing data obtained from your website visitors. Following the GDPR regulations is mandatory, even if your business is not physically located within the European Union.

Other notable international privacy laws include The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) of Canada and The Privacy Act 1988 of Australia. Greenway Law Firm, based in Florida, can help draft a multi-territorial-compliant privacy policy for your business. Book a consultation call here.

Types of Data That Are Collected

The types of data that are collected on a business website depend upon the function and operations of the business. For example, data collected by solo entrepreneurs or bloggers are usually minimal in comparison to data collected by social media applications such as Facebook, Whatsapp, or Instagram.

Personal Data

Below are some examples of data that is commonly collected:

  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Age 
  • Name
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Religious belief 
  • Residential address

Sensitive Data

It is also common for some businesses to collect data that is sensitive in nature. Such data includes:

  • Financial details, including credit card information
  • Biodata
  • Sensitive medical records
  • Data belonging to minors

If your website stores or collects any of the data categories mentioned above, it is essential to create and publish a website privacy policy.

Do you need help drafting a privacy policy to protect your business? Greenway Law Firm, based in Florida, can help. Book a consultation now.

What Should Be Included In a Privacy Policy?

The most effective way to develop a compliant privacy policy is to hire an experienced attorney. However, below are some guidelines on what, at a minimum, should be included in every privacy policy.

  • Acknowledge that your website collects data. If your website does not collect any user data, include a statement that no personal user data is collected.
  • Explain the purpose of your business’ collection and storage of data, and describe:
    1. The type of information collected;
    2. The precautions that are taken to protect the collection of information; and
    3. Whether you use any tracking tools, such as Cookies.
  • A description of all third parties the data is shared with (if any).
  • Explain the rights website visitors have regarding their collected data.
  • Provide website visitors with an option to ‘opt-out’ of sharing non-essential data.
  • Provide website visitors with a way to request that your business delete or remove their collected or stored personal data.
  • Provide your business contact details so that visitors can reach your business to make any requests or ask any questions.

What If My Business Fails to Provide a Privacy Policy on my Website?

Failure to comply with the requirements of any U.S. state law, U.S. federal law, or international law can result in heavy fines. Below are some examples of monetary penalties that can be imposed for violations:

  • European Union GDPR: $20 million or up to 4% of your company’s global annual revenue, whichever is higher;
  • Canadian PIPEDA: Companies who intentionally violate any clause can face fines of up to $100,000 for each offense;
  • California CCPA: Fines up to $7,500 for intentional violations and up to $2,500 for accidental violations; and
  • Virginia CDPA: Fines of up to $7,500 for intentional violations.

The amount of the fines depends on various factors, such as the severity of the violation, and whether any previous violations have occurred. Did you know that in 2020, Google was fined $57 Million for violating the GDPR?

Greenway Law Firm, based in Florida, can help create a tailored privacy policy to protect your business. Book a consultation now.

How Can a Business Benefit From a Privacy Policy?

As a business owner, having a privacy policy on your website may help manage or mitigate liability if a customer or client initiates a dispute regarding their data. Moreover, a privacy policy helps the business appear more professional and ethically sound, and many times it is legally required.

In addition, structuring a clear and precise privacy policy builds a bridge of trust between the customers and the business. Today, the average internet user is aware that websites collect their data, so having a clear policy describing what you do with their data is imperative.

Visitors to your website tend to appreciate transparency, and a privacy policy displays your willingness to abide by regulations and keep visitors involved in your company’s process of data collection, storage, and usage.

Even if your website does not currently collect any information from its visitors, you should still consider publishing a privacy policy on your website. Your privacy policy page can simply be a notice stating that your company does not store or collect personal data.

Are you looking for an experienced Attorney to draft a privacy policy for your website? Book a consultation with Greenway Law Firm, based in Florida.

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