What Policies Appear On Your Website?

privacy policy

Like many businesses, you probably maintain Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn accounts to promote your product or service. If your leadership and IT teams listen to your marketing and PR teams, these social sites link back to your main website. And like many others, you may refresh your website on a regular basis.

But how often do you update the policies that sit along the footer of each page or appear in the small print in the sitemap? Depending on your specific industry, the size of your business, and your target audience, you may feature more than just a standard Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

A privacy policy is “a statement or a legal document (privacy law) that discloses some or all of the ways a party gathers, uses, discloses and manages a customer or client’s data. Personal information can be anything that can be used to identify an individual including name, address, date of birth, marital status, contact information, ID issue and expiry date, financial records, credit information, medical history, where one travels, and intentions to acquire goods and services. In the case of a business, it’s often a statement that declares a party’s policy on how it collects, stores, and releases personal information it collects. It informs the client what specific information is collected, and whether it is kept confidential, shared with partners, or sold to other firms or enterprises.” (1)

According to Wikipedia, “There are questions about whether consumers understand privacy policies and whether they help consumers make more informed decisions. Critics also question if consumers even read privacy policies or can understand what they read. A 2001 study by the Privacy Leadership Initiative claimed only 3% of consumers read privacy policies carefully, and 64% briefly glanced at, or never read, privacy policies…One possible issue is length and complexity of policies. According to a 2008 Carnegie Mellon study, the average length of a privacy policy is 2,500 words and requires an average 10 minutes to read.” (2)

The Walt Disney Company goes one step further and provides an Internet Safety page. This company’s page helps parents teach children about Internet safety and cyberbullying. While this may not be appropriate for all businesses, it is a clear demonstration as to how this business knows its audience.

How well do you know your audience, and can you customize your privacy policy page so that it stands apart from the competition?

A Terms of Use agreement “is used for legal purposes by websites and Internet service providers to store a user’s personal data for eCommerce and social networking sites.” (3) Also known as a user agreement, this often contains sections regarding proper usage, opt-out policy, accountability for online actions and behaviors, payment details, and privacy. Terms of use can, and often do, change often and vary from site to site.

Some companies take the Terms of Use idea and transform it into a Terms of Service agreement. One site that features a Terms of Service on its site is Truste.

Some companies with significant brand assets also provide copyright policies. One company is LinkedIn.

Pinterest calls its agreement an “Acceptable Use Policy,” but since photos and images appear on the site, Pinterest wants the content to make users feel “safe and comfortable.”

How can you customize your Terms of Use page so that it stands apart from your competitors?

Since few users or visitors take the time to read the policies on websites, it’s the responsibility of the website owner (whether that is translated to mean CEO, marketing, IT, HR, etc.) to create a user-friendly page so that the policy is read – and not just a few lines, but the entire policy.
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Sources for this post:
(1) and (2) Wikipedia: Privacy Policy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privacy_policy

(3) Wikipedia: Terms of Use
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terms_of_use

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

IBMThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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About Allan Pratt

Technology and cybersecurity professional with focus on tech news, cybersecurity, networking, infrastructure, data protection, consumer electronics, and social media.
This entry was posted in Online Privacy, Online Security, Privacy Rights, Terms of Service and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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