Does My Website Need a Privacy Policy?

You are starting an online business, creating an app or blog, and suddenly among all the other responsibilities and concerns, somebody asks you about your privacy policy plan. Of course, you don’t know what to answer exactly since your business ideas alone are still a work in progress, not to mention these elegant details! But, from that moment on, you can’t stop wondering — does my website need a privacy policy?

Well, unless you have a website with purely informative content that doesn’t assume any kind of interaction with visitors — which is quite rare — you absolutely need to create a privacy policy.

In other words, if your website is collecting any personal data from its users, you need to inform your users about such activities. The best way to do that is through a well-rounded and legally backed up privacy policy.

Read more on the obligations, strategies, and website privacy policy requirements below in the rest of this article.

What Is a Privacy Policy?

A privacy policy is an official document that informs website users about the personal information the website is collecting and for what purposes. It needs to include the instructions that help users protect their confidentiality as an essential element. And finally, each legitimate privacy policy includes detailed explanations of how the website uses the personal data — for example, is it sharing or selling them?

Whenever you create a site that can collect, sort, and/or distribute personal data, you are obliged by law to place a privacy policy for that website somewhere visible.

A privacy policy is there to protect everyone, the website owner and their customers. That is why everybody should take these legal documents seriously. If you want to create a privacy policy, you need to follow a particular set of rules and privacy policy regulations each time. You should even consider consulting some of the best online legal services for advice.

Also, you should be careful not to confuse privacy policy with other similar online agreements and documents. Here are some that raise the most confusion. Hopefully, these comparisons can clarify the situation somewhat.

The difference between privacy policy statement and privacy policy notice

Privacy policy notices come in different forms and with different goals. However, they usually represent your privacy policy summary. They often appear in a pop-up window and contain a link to the full privacy policy document.

A privacy policy notice could look something like this:

   To enable you access to our website, we may collect some of your data. Please read our privacy policy in full and inform yourself about which of the details we collect, for what purpose, and how we store them.

In case you decide that you don’t need a privacy policy, it is a good practice to still leave a privacy policy notice for your customers, informing them of that. Your customers will appreciate the honesty. Such notice could go something on the line with:

   This website does not collect, share, or store your personal information. The content of this website is purely informative, and as such, it doesn’t interfere with your private data.

So the main difference is that a privacy policy is a complete document, while a privacy notice is its summary that first appears on the screen and invites action, that is, further reading.

Privacy policy vs terms and conditions

Terms and conditions highlight what’s expected from both website owners and users — unlike a privacy policy that mostly lays out user rights. So, the rights and responsibilities of both website owners and users are outlined in terms and conditions.

At times, you can use the terms and conditions agreement to regulate your users’ activities and set their expectations. Additionally, this agreement can cover some of your company’s legal requirements.

Still, you will need at least a boilerplate privacy policy to cover the collection, usage, and distribution of personal data.

Can terms and conditions or terms of service replace a privacy policy?

Terms of service are legally little, or not at all, dissimilar to terms and conditions. The only difference may be in the area of coverage. While terms and conditions cover the rights and responsibilities of the whole website, terms of services can apply more specifically.

In other words, terms of service usually apply to rules and regulations of specific services or goods that the website is offering. However, these two terms often overlap to the extent they can be used interchangeably.

Still, regardless of how much website information and regulations your terms of service cover, you will need to include the standard privacy policy for a website to be able to manage users’ privacy details.

Does My Website Need a Privacy Policy?

How do I know if my website needs a privacy policy? What does this exactly depend on? Well,
that mostly depends on your website content and your objective as the owner. If your website gathers any type of users’ information, you do need a privacy policy.

Also, keep in mind that websites sometimes collect data without their owners even knowing it. This mostly happens through cookies. Cookies are present whenever you are using social media plug-ins, buttons, or online analytic tools. So if your website is hosted, then it uses cookies and gathers data.

So, to be on the safe side, and avoid any unintentional breaches of the law, always consider creating a privacy policy for your website.

Here are some websites that, without exception, need to have a privacy policy statement.

Websites that collect user data

As we have mentioned earlier, every website that collects user data requires a tailored privacy policy. That means that if you recognize your website under this category, you should create a privacy policy that is synchronized to your website’s operations and to the latest law amendments.

Websites that use payment processing tools

If you need to collect personal information for payment processing tools, you should create an adequate privacy policy. For instance, an online store needs a suitable online store privacy policy. And in general, whenever payment processing tools are linked to your website, some personal data will be picked up. It is how most online shopping statistics are created, after all, by gathering and sorting shoppers’ data.

Analytics suites employing websites

Analytics suites are websites that use online tools that gather, sort, visualize, and share analytic data to improve one’s business. Analytic suites can help improve your future business ideas and decisions. Next, they can make your business more preferable to certain target groups and recognize lucrative business opportunities. Both visibility of your business and the speed of its development can significantly improve. By now, you can surely see how useful this tool is. But also, that it calls for specific privacy policy legal requirements.

If your website uses advertising plug-ins

Have you ever wondered how come certain apps and websites know exactly which product you are looking for? It is thanks to these advertising plug-ins that gather personal data. Advertising plug-ins follow users’ online activities and mark their preferences and personal details. If you are planning on getting this useful tool for your future business, make sure you include a privacy policy for your website as well.

A website that exceeds a certain number of users or amount of earnings

According to CCPA, you are legally obligated to include a privacy policy if any of the following are true:

  • Your business has more than 50,000 customers.
  • More than half of your annual revenue comes from selling personal data.
  • Your business has more than $25 million in annual earnings.

Website Privacy Policy Requirements

While anyone can create their privacy policy, there are official rules and legal requirements to follow. The beginning of the 21st century has brought about significant network and website changes and expansions. Along with them, most of the old rules had to be changed or adapted. Make sure to check which of these rules apply in your country and the privacy policy requirements for your website category.

CalOPPA requirements

CalOPPA or California Online Privacy Protection Act is one of the first official data privacy regulations in the USA. It went into effect on July 4, 2004, and it turned California into the first of the US states to pass a specific privacy policy regulation. From that moment on, each website owner that has California customers has to adhere to these regulations. That is, if your website is accessible in California, you need to follow CalOPPA. This applies no matter your yearly revenue from that website.

The two main principles under which CalOPPA operates are transparency about the PII (personally identifiable information) and implementation of DTR (do not track requests) options.

The PII in the case of California website privacy policy requirements, or more Specifically under CalOPPA, include:

  • Full name
  • Addresses
  • Email addresses
  • Telephone numbers
  • Social security number
  • Personal descriptions such as height, eye color, hair color, and similar,
  • IP addresses
  • Any other personal data that someone can use along with the above-mentioned details for individual identification

In other words, for your website to comply with CalOPPA, you need to make clear to your customers which PII exactly your website collects. As well as, what are their DTR options, in case they don’t agree on their personal browsing activities being tracked.

The privacy policy outlook requirements by CalOPPA

You may find useful this summary of the privacy policy outlook requirements that need to be respected under CalOPPA.

  • Your privacy policy content — the clear list of all the personally identifiable information that your privacy policy may collect, use, and share. The purpose of a privacy policy. The effective date and how your website will communicate the changes. Instructions on how users can request to review and delete their PII. Information whether a DNT request will be approved or not.
  • Its accessibility — your privacy policy should be visible and accessible at all times to your customers. So to achieve CalOPPA compliance, your privacy policy must either be positioned on your homepage or hyperlinked via an icon or text on the homepage with formatting that stands out (font, size, color).
  • The privacy policy enforcement — finally, your actions and your website operations must follow everything that is stated in the privacy policy for your website. Non-compliance may lead to a lawsuit that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can bring against you.

Keep in mind that fines for privacy policy breaches are extremely high. You will get 30 days to rectify the situation. But in case you fail to do this, you can expect penalties of $2,500 per violation. Since every visit to your website in the period in which your website didn’t adhere to CalOPPA regulations is considered a violation, the fines can quickly pile up. In the case of conglomerate corporations, these fines can reach millions. The penalties for non-compliance stress the importance of having a privacy policy.

CCPA requirements

Officially in effect since January 5, 2020, California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA for short) is the most recently updated and currently one of the strictest privacy laws of the United States. Once CCPA came on, most US website owners stopped asking themselves — does my website need a privacy policy? And instead, started pondering — how do I get one?

CCPA introduced new digital consumers’ rights, brought higher standards for data collections, and new penalties came into force.

The good news is this new privacy act applies only to “businesses” that collect “consumer” data. But, let’s first learn more about these two terms.

  • Business, in this case, is considered to be only a profit-gaining entity that either earns $25 million yearly, has over 50,000 consumers each year, or earns at least half of its annual revenue by selling personal data.
  • Consumer, by CCPA standards, refers to a person that is a California resident.

However, we should highlight that your business headquarters don’t necessarily need to be in California for your online website to fall under the Californian website privacy policy law. Especially in this era of the global network, your business can operate anywhere in the world, and still have Californian customers or consumers.

Nonetheless, if you are just starting a small business that doesn’t yet reach the above-mentioned numbers, you are good, as far as the CCPA is concerned.

GDPR requirements

GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, is the EU law that regulates data protection and privacy. Under this law, all organizations and companies must treat the customers’ personal information confidentially. It is one of the world’s most extensive and rigorous privacy policy regulations. The regulation insists on these conditions:

  • The law is equal throughout the EU.
  • The integrity of users has to be respected — the personal data can be collected only if it is immediately necessary, and never just in case or for later actions. The process must run securely. And, the individual has to be informed about the data collecting activities.
  • All the data collecting and using activities must be legal — a contract, consent, or any authorized alternative legal bond has to be signed.
  • The human rights of all the website users have to be fully respected — one of the principal EU privacy policy requirements.
  • Any data breach has to be reported within the next 72h — new to GDPR.

These are just GDPR requirements in a nutshell. The regulation is on since 2016, and since then, it has constantly been updating. The fines for non-compliance are very high. They can go up to 4% of the company’s global sales (of the last 12 months) or €20 million (over $24 million).

The Data Protection Act requirements

The Data Protection Act of 2018 is the implementation of GDPR privacy policy requirements in the UK. According to this regulation:

Every person or business that operates with personal data must follow strict rules ( termed data protection principles). They must ensure all the data is:

  • Used in a fair, lawful, and honest manner
  • Employed for named and explicit purposes
  • Used adequately and to relevant purposes
  • Kept for only as long as it is necessary — no longer than that
  • Accurate and kept up to date ( whenever this is applicable)
  • Fully secured, including protection against unlawful or unauthorized access, processing, loss, or damage

Sensitive personal information, such as ethnic background, political views, religious beliefs, etc., is treated as sensitive information and has even stricter legal protection.

PIPEDA — Canada privacy protection requirements

PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) is Canadian Law that governs privacy policy legal requirements. It’s responsible for all the private-sector organizations within Canada that gather, operate with, or disclose personal data as part of their commercial activities.

Organizations that PIPEDA covers must possess an individual’s consent for any collection, usage, or disclosure of that individual’s private data. Furthermore, their customers have the right to access their information files at all times and to check their accuracy.

Users’ age, first and last name, ID numbers, incomes, blood type, opinions, evaluations, beliefs, financial records, and more all fall under the personal information category. Under PIPEDA, every organization needs to protect personal information from the moment it gets access to it.

Australia privacy protection requirements

The Privacy Act 1988 dictates most of the privacy policy requirements for Australia. Although this act came into force in 1988, the government is frequently making amendments to keep it up to date with global requirements.

So far, there are 13 Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) that set up standards, rights, and responsibilities regarding:

  • The collection, usage, and disclosure of personal information
  • An organization or agency’s administration and accountability
  • Integrity and alteration of personal information
  • The individuals’ rights to access their data

If you need to familiarize yourself with APPs in detail, the full document of Privacy Act 1988 is available online.

Privacy policy requirements by the third-party services

Numerous third-party online services, frequently used by websites, require the implementation of specific privacy policy regulations. The best way to implement all these regulations at once is to create an accurate and detailed privacy policy.

Such a privacy policy has the power to protect the website owner, the users, and the third party from possible illegal activities.

That means it’s not surprising that the third party will insist on good visibility and easy accessibility of that privacy policy as one of the main requirements.

Next to all the other general requirements that work for most of the online privacy policies, each of these third parties will have a set of distinctive requirements. For example, Google Play privacy policy requirements will differ from Google Analytics requirements.

Google Analytics privacy policy requirements

Google Analytics demand that, if you are using the standard Google Analytics features to track user activities on your website, your Privacy Policy must include:

  • A statement that you use Google Analytics to track user activities and behavior
  • An explanation of how you collect and use the data
  • Information for the users about the usage of cookies

Again, you have to display your website privacy policy in a prominent spot, for instance, a website footer.

Google AdSense privacy policy requirements

If your website uses Google AdSense, you need to adjust your Privacy Policy to be matching Google AdSense Terms and Conditions.

Your Privacy Policy must disclose your usage of Google Adsense. It must add a statement that third parties, including Google, use cookies to display relevant content to a user relying on their previous browsing actions. Besides that, you need to include the instruction on Google’s DoubleClick cookies.

Finally, your website privacy policy needs to instruct users on how to avoid the usage of DoubleClick cookies by choosing the opt-out option in Google’s Ad Settings menu.

Google also suggests that each website owner should put commercially reasonable efforts to ensure they get consent to use cookies. Pop-up alerts are a very convenient method to achieve this. Besides, they allow users to block this option if they wish to.

How to Create a Privacy Policy

If the answer to the question — does my website need a privacy policy? — is yes, the next thing is to learn how. There are three most common ways to do it:

  1. Make a privacy policy on your own.
  2. Hire a professional agency or a lawyer to help you.
  3. Use a privacy policy generator.

How can I make my own privacy policy?

Technically, you can write your own privacy policy as long as you have enough tools and knowledge to do it.

However, keep in mind that as plain or as generic a website privacy policy may seem, each of these documents integrates a fair share of other official documentation elements. And you have to be familiar with them. So, to create a valid privacy policy, you should combine the existing law acts with your website requirements into one document with decent flow.

Therefore, if you decide to be the creator of your privacy policy, first, you should familiarize yourself with all the current laws, both local and international. A well-written privacy policy that is not compliant with all the relevant laws has no value.

Next, you should check other examples and templates on other websites to get an idea of
how a good privacy policy should look. Your customers will appreciate an easily readable privacy policy form.

Be transparent about the personal data collected and the purpose behind it. Inform your customers of how your service can be conducted, with different levels of personal data accessibility. Mention how they can protect their personal information. Finally, make sure to highlight all the plug-ins that your website is using.

Once the form, the content, and the legal aspect of your privacy policy are ready, make sure to position your privacy policy somewhere visible.

Should I hire an attorney to help me?

To be on the safe side, you can always hire an attorney familiar with privacy policy regulations and laws. It is preferable if that attorney is a native speaker of the language you are using on your website.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to have a lawyer for this. However, depending on the complexity of your website, the amount of personal information it operates with, and the different client backgrounds and countries involved, it can be advisable. The more intricate your situation, the better chances for some unwanted lapse.

You can avoid all these by getting legal help. However, that help is often pricey, so make sure you budget for that in advance.

Can I use a privacy policy generator to create a privacy policy?

A good compromise between the expensive legal services and risky DIY strategies is a reliable privacy policy generator. This way, you don’t need to pay a fortune to create a privacy policy while still ensuring you adhere to all the legal requirements.

Luckily, it’s possible to generate a legally updated website privacy policy that’s tailored to your needs. Why waste your time and stress yourself with so many rules when a computer program can do it more quickly and accurately? So, opt for some of the best privacy policy generators online and save a lot of effort, time, and money.

What is more, some of these privacy policy generators can offer you a free customized privacy policy template, multiple language options, regular updates, and other add-on services that can all be of great use.

To Sum up

As time-consuming and nerve-wracking as creating a privacy policy can be, it is always a good practice and, more often than not, necessary. By placing a transparent privacy policy on your homepage, you are respecting your customers’ rights and leaving a good impression. At the same time, you are avoiding all the legal complications and penalties.

Also, whether you decide to create a privacy policy by yourself or seek professional help, it is a good practice to familiarize yourself with all applicable laws and requirements.

Privacy policy generators are a very powerful tool.

Instead of asking yourself: “does my website need a privacy policy?”, you can get one quickly and effortlessly through an online generator and end your worries. And even if you are absolutely certain that your website doesn’t gather personal data, leaving a privacy note to your customers is a good idea. Many of them will appreciate the information.

FAQ

Where to put a privacy policy on a website?

You should always put your privacy policy in a prominent place, like the bottom of your landing page. Alternatively, you can place a clear privacy policy sign in the upper area of your first page and link it to the full privacy policy agreement.

Why are companies updating privacy policies?

In today’s world, where everything is changing rapidly, including the website privacy policy requirements, companies are frequently changing their privacy policies to keep up with the legal obligations.

What information can websites collect?

Websites can collect all kinds of personal information. The first and last name, home address, email address, bank account number, social security number are among the most common ones. Of course, that’s not a complete list. In some cases, even your political and religious choices can be tracked.

Do all websites need a privacy policy?

Nowadays, most websites need to have a privacy policy. However, there are some exceptions. Websites with purely informative content that can’t collect any personal data don’t require a privacy policy agreement.

Is a website privacy policy required by law?

Yes, various acts, regulations, and laws such as Internet Privacy Requirements (CalOPPA), GDPR, and PIPEDA demand strict compliance with privacy policy rules.

Are privacy policies legally binding?

Yes, they are. You can be legally prosecuted if you’re in breach of a privacy policy contract.

What policies do I need on my website?

Essential policies that each website should contain are a privacy statement for websites, a privacy policy, a privacy note, terms and conditions, and terms of use.

Do I need a privacy policy if I collect email addresses on my website?

Yes, definitely. An email address is considered a piece of personal information.

What if a website doesn't have a privacy policy?

On some rare occasions, it’s not necessary to have a privacy policy on a website. Always start by asking yourself — does my website need a privacy policy? If your website doesn’t collect any personal data and doesn’t use plug-ins that do so, you’re safe. However, if your website operates with personal information, you can be legally prosecuted and heavily fined for not having a privacy policy on your website.

ABOUT AUTHOR

A human nature explorer disguised as a linguist. Maybe if I have traveled less and in fewer directions, I could’ve been an expert in one particular field. Instead, I’m just a passionate researcher, reader, and writer. The subjects that I always gladly cover are mostly from the world of finance, sociology, and psychology. My flying experience (both as a cabin crew and a pilot) taught me never to disregard the human factor. For that reason, I write all my articles in a way that every human can relate to in one aspect or another. In my free time, I am an animal lover (sometimes during work hours too).

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