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Top 10 Privacy Policy Mistakes You Must Avoid

The online regulatory environment is getting more and more complicated. Combine that with the laws and policies concerning privacy policies, and you’ll surely find it even more challenging to comprehend.

It can be difficult to thoroughly understand the realm of privacy policies, especially when applied to the web. However, there are ways for website owners to avoid making big privacy policy mistakes.

It is necessary to abide by these rules, as these have legal implications on your business operations and its image, let alone hefty penalties that may be imposed on you for non-compliance.

To help you get an idea of the common mistakes that businesses and individuals make when it comes to online privacy policies, we have prepared a list for you. Here are some of the things you should avoid when dealing with privacy policies.

1. Not having a privacy policy at all

When you have an online platform, having a privacy policy is a big “must.” This is one of the most vital legal agreements you should have in your platform. It lets people know how you collect and use their data, and sets reasonable expectations about what you will and won’t do with the information you have.

People are getting increasingly protective about their privacy, and this is even more so the case online. They do not want to have their information exploited for the gain of corporations (or anyone else for that matter), and they want to protect their movements and online footprint as much as possible.

With the help of a privacy policy, you have a legal safeguard when it comes to things you can and can’t do with their data. Their agreement and use of your website is an indirect consent to your privacy policy.

Moreover, complaints about things you’ve already reasonably discussed in your privacy policy won’t have much legal ground to stand on.

2. Copying someone else’s privacy policy

A privacy policy is not one-size-fits-all. Just because it works for another website, doesn’t mean that you should copy their privacy policy outright.

You have to make sure that your privacy policy fits the way you conduct your business. Otherwise, there isn’t much use to having any privacy policy at all.

You can even get into legal trouble if you copy someone's privacy policy in its entirety, which makes this legal safeguard counterintuitive.

Privacy policies should be contextual. It should depend on your business and its structure. It should likewise directly address your clients and the way they interact and engage with you in your online platform.

By doing so, you can maximize your privacy policy and mold it into a legal safeguard that supports your business and your online dealings.

3. Using a generic template

Apart from copying someone else’s privacy policy, another mistake you should avoid is using a generic privacy policy template for your company. As mentioned, privacy policies should depend on your business structure and your interaction with your clients.

If you use a privacy policy that is not for you, there will be misses on vital sections that are nuanced to your unique business profile.

Generic privacy policies may cover some of the ground in online privacy laws. However, having a privacy policy that’s too generic might not be strategic for all companies, especially those with specialized functions.

Always use privacy policies that are tailor-fitted to the way your business works. That way, you avoid facing legal issues from sections that are too broad or too vague to be applied to your company.

4. Missing required clauses

The internet covers a lot of ground these days and people from all over the world across ages will be able to visit your website. Make sure to comply with privacy laws that have extensive coverage like GDPR, CCPA, COPPA, and CALOPPA.

Here’s a basic introduction to these laws and why you should integrate these to your privacy policy:

GDPR (EU General Data Protection Regulation)

This statute seeks to create a stronger and more robust privacy network across Europe. It serves as a de-facto global regulator for online privacy. Its goal is to give users more control over how their data are used. It also makes it harder for companies to use vague provisions in privacy policies to rationalize the improper use of private data.

CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act)

This statewide privacy law governs the way companies use the private information of the residents of California. If your company sells the personal information of more than 50,000 Californian residents annually, has a yearly revenue with more than $25 million, and derives 50% of your annual revenue from selling information of Californian residents, make sure that your privacy policy follows the terms of CCPA.

COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule)

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection is a statute that covers websites that cater to and can be accessed by children under 13 years of age. If your business operations recognize that some of your data come from people 13 and under, make sure to include relevant sections from COPPA to your online privacy policy.

CalOPPA (California Online Privacy Protection Act)

It covers a set of regulations that businesses should enforce when it comes to online privacy policies in California. CalOPPA applies to companies that collect personal regulation from residents of California, regardless of where that business is based. These are some of the most basic regulations of CalOPPA:

  • Posting a conspicuous and public privacy policy,
  • Notifying users about the information you collect from them,
  • Informing users about third-party data sharing,
  • Providing users with the chance to review or change their personal information, and
  • Updating users of changes to your privacy policy, among others

Since these online regulations and statutes cast a wide net in terms of coverage, you should make sure to include these in your privacy policy. Also, always abide by the rules they set.

It couldn’t be stressed enough - privacy policies exist to protect users from businesses that want to exploit their data. In turn, they give businesses legal support when it comes to utilizing their users’ information.

It is a two-way street that seeks to balance business and consumer information rights online, which means that it should be upheld as much as possible.

If your business fails to comply with the legal requirements set by online privacy laws, you might face serious legal issues.

6. Not following your own privacy policy’s practices

Just because you made your privacy policy, it doesn’t mean that you can break the rules all the time. Rules were made to be followed, and your inability to follow the rules you set might serve as a precedent for others to also skirt around these rules.

In the last few years, enforcement actions from governing bodies have resulted in millions of dollars in settlement from companies that have failed to follow their own privacy policies.

These companies were labeled as deceptive, and they have shown to have performed unfair trade practices and carelessness because of the way they handled sensitive client information.

You should endeavor to avoid such allegations to prevent legal issues, and in turn, dodge settlements that can put you in financial turmoil.

7. Making your privacy policy too hard to read and understand

Privacy policies are in place so that companies can be transparent about the way they handle customer information. Don’t make your privacy policy too complicated and wordy to the point that it makes your policy even more confusing. That defeats the purpose of having a privacy policy.

Form shouldn’t be prioritized over substance when it comes to privacy policies. Above everything else, you should make sure that the privacy policy you craft is easy-to-digest, clear, and as concise as it can be.

Consumers would not spend more than 10 minutes of their time reading a privacy policy when they spend even less time browsing websites in their entirety. Maximize the use of your privacy policy now by making it easy to understand.

8. Not making privacy policies visible

When consumers visit your website, your privacy policy should be one of the first things they should read and consent to. If you put your privacy policy on a webpage that is not easy to reach, then your clients might end up not reading your privacy policy at all.

What most websites do is they put their privacy policies in the footer or sidebar of their website, besides the terms & conditions and cookies policy. This way, all legal pages are grouped and easy to find.

Having user-friendly navigation like this will protect you should you ever find yourself in legal trouble related to the placement of your privacy policy.

To begin with, privacy policies were made to be read by your customers. Hiding your privacy policy defeats the purpose of having a privacy policy. Make your privacy policy effective by strategically placing it in areas where people can easily read it.

Privacy policies are effective when your site visitors and customers at least read their most essential parts and consent to the terms and rules laid down for them. As mentioned, there’s implied consent when it comes to users navigating through websites. The fact that they are using it indirectly means that they agree with your terms.

However, this notion needs to be elevated. That is the reason why GDPR has a higher standard for consent when it comes to privacy policies. You have to ask for consent regarding the use of their data, make them understand the implications of their consent, and ask them to choose between letting your use their data or not.

While this does not apply to all websites, it is still a good practice to implement. It strengthens your relationship with your clients. It also makes them see that you do not just value them for the traffic and information they create, but also for the support and participation they bring to your webpage.

10. Not staying up-to-date as laws and regulations change

You shouldn’t just make a privacy policy and let it stay that way for good. Just as laws evolve, your privacy policy should also reflect these changes. That makes sure that you always comply with the new regulations set by online regulatory bodies.

You should also try to update your customers, clients, and site visitors regarding these changes. They might not always read your privacy policy update notices. Still, at least, you’ve covered your ground when it comes to making sure that you did your part in letting them know about your privacy policy updates.

Being transparent about these changes lets your site visitors know that you value them and you want them to understand their rights as online entities. It makes your business look trust-worthy – reliable enough to handle sensitive private information.

Avoid these common privacy policy mistakes!

Now that we’ve laid down some of the most basic mistakes when it comes to privacy policies, you should make sure that you avoid these as much as possible. There are numerous benefits to being compliant with the rules that online regulatory bodies set.

Not only will you have a better grasp of handling private client information, but you’ll also get to avoid facing legal issues (and costly settlements) related to privacy policy issues.

Try our professional privacy policy generator to create an attorney-drafted policy tailored specifically for you and how you run and operate your website or mobile app.