The 5 Elements of a Winning Privacy Policy

It is rare that you come across a website that doesn’t have a policy anymore. Even blogs, which offer only comments on posts, provide a policy in order to assure their readers that their information will not be misused. Ultimately this is to protect both the user and the site owner, eliminating (or at least reducing in more extreme cases) the risk of lawsuit and sanctions that might be imposed by the FCC. Which is exactly why even small sites in today’s world of more efficient link sharing, even small sites should contain some kind of privacy policy.

But knowing what elements to include in a successful one can be difficult. Here are the five major parts to consider when creating the perfect policy for your site.

1. Customize Your Policy

Customize Your Policy

There are a ton of free, standard privacy policy templates online that you can use. But doing so is usually a mistake. Sure, it covers the basics. But it might not give your users the protection they need, now yourself if a complaint is filed in the future.

Anyone who is using an ecommerce or marketing based site is especially vulnerable in this area, and so should spend more time customizing a workable policy. Unless you are planning to aggressively use the information gathered to benefit the site or partners, you can probably build a good policy on your own. But if you do need something more complex, have an attorney create one for you based on your specifications.

2. Be Understandable

Be Understandable

A policy full of legal buzzwords and complicated rhetoric might seem impressive and intimidating. But that isn’t the goal of providing a privacy policy in the first place, and so will not help you. Being as direct and simple in your language as possible will ensure that your site visitors will know what they are agreeing to.

It will also protect you from accusations of being intentionally ambiguous or misleading. Whether or not they choose to read the terms of service is up to them, but at least you and your partners are covered in the case of a misunderstanding, and those who did read it now what they are going to be getting.

3. Tell The What, When and Why

Tell The What, When and Why

One of the main points to these policies is telling your site visitors what will be done with the information they give. You will want to tell them what your will be taking and keeping, when you will be collecting it and to what purpose. Why and how is their data being used? Who is it being shared with?

If you are connected to another site or affiliate, and they will gain access to information, clearly write that into the policy and explain how the third party will be using the information, as well.

4. Legal Requirements of Disclosure

Legal Requirements of Disclosure

Legally, most sites are obligated to share information related to content posted on their site. For example, if someone were to post a link to some kind of illegal website in a comment on a blog, that blog might be legally require to release the details of information like the IP address to the police. Make sure you mention that you will share any information with official regulatory or legal departments upon request. This should be an element of your general term of service, as well. Especially as it is relevant to what you will and will not censor.

5. Announce Policy Changes

Announce Policy Changes

Finally, let your viewers know that you will be periodically updating or changing your privacy policies at the end of the policy itself. Any time you do change the policy, give users a heads up so they can check out the new regulations and possibly agree to the new ones. Failing to do this is a quick way to welcome potential legal trouble when a web visitor files a complaint as they were not aware that the privacy policy had changed.


Plenty of popular websites have suffered for refusing to correctly provide or follow a privacy policy. For example, Facebook was ruled to have violated user’s privacy rights by not following their own rules and aggressively selling user data. Which has led to an oversight ruling for the next 20 years to make sure they toe the line.

Let that be a lesson on the importance of an accurate, up to date and easily understandable privacy policy for your own website.

Image Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Tom Chu is the SEO manager at PsPrint, a company specializing in online printing. PsPrint offers an array of free tools, for example it lets you make your own business cards online. Follow PsPrint on Twitter and Facebook


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