sexta-feira, 6 de agosto de 2010



If you’re running an e-commerce site or any site that registers visitors and collects their information then your website NEEDS a good Privacy Policy. It’s easy to leave out important things out as you fine tune the look and feel of the website you’re building and a good Privacy Policy could quite easily be one of them.

A Privacy Policy is basically information where you tell your visitors about some or all of the ways that you gather, use, share and look after your customer's data or, in fact, any data that you collect using your website. It’s really all about being up-front and fair. Basically a Privacy Policy says: “This is what information I collect and why; this is how I keep it safe and I promise I will not give or show the information I know about you to anyone else for any reason.

As a perfect example, check out VodaHost’s very own Privacy Policy:

Keep researching too; below are links to the Privacy Policies of some of the most visited websites on the Internet:

Facebook: (this one has made headlines recently!)

Adding a good Privacy Policy to your website is a great ethical and moral (even pseudo-legal) thing to do and today I’m going to help you, in a few simple steps, craft a great Privacy Policy for your website so that your customers know exactly why you need their information, how you are going to use it and how you keep it private. Read through the Privacy Policies above and then ask these simple questions of your own website’s Privacy Policy and you cannot go wrong:

1] What types of information do you collect and how you use it?

A Privacy Policy is all about providing reassurance to your customers. You should explain clearly what types of information you ask your visitors for and just what you are going to do with that information. Besides personal information (names, e-mails), what other information do you keep track of? Do you collect information from children? How do you verify parental consent for information about their children? Remember that while maybe two thirds of Internet users might be willing to accept a guarantee that you will not abuse their privacy, the other third may feel extremely nervous about the way their personal information might be used. Therefore, if your web site gathers transaction data to identify visitors, to come up with new offers or to sell their names to merchandisers, you will need to explain how you share that information within your own family of companies and outside, or else you will very likely face serious legal problems.

2] Why are your server and online operations are secure?

Now that you’ve told people what information you ask for and what you do with it, you will have to tell your customers what makes your server and online operations secure. Also you’ll need good answers when confronted with questions such as, ‘How do you make sure nobody steals my credit card information?’ or ‘How do you protect the privacy of my emails to your customer support team?’ Point out how your consumers can tell if they are really on a secure server, like the URL change from http:// to https:// as well as the icons that show up on the status bar of your users web browser (that little lock and how it locks and unlocks). You can even have a go at explaining encryption and even the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Most importantly, concentrate on the benefits of these measures to the consumer, for in the end, most of them will not care less about all the security measures you take and all the money you spend to make your website secure, unless it means some kind of benefit to them.

3] Can your customers get out?

When people read your Privacy Policy for the first time, they will want to know how they can start or stop receiving email from you. Giving customers an opt-in and opt-out option is a great way to build trust and lower their personal barriers. However, you must be aware that people’s needs, desires and interests might change over time and despite the fact that no one likes to lose a customer, you must let them go if they state that they are no longer interested in receiving your emails. To protect your customers’ privacy, you must give them access to their personal profile or account, and give them the option to delete themselves if they wish. Since one of the biggest invasions of privacy is spam (aaarrrggghhh!!!), one consideration is that it is a good idea to allow people to opt into your e-mail newsletter twice - once by clicking the check-box and Submit button on your website and again by responding to the e-mail notification that they can subscribe if they reply. This double opt-in makes it more likely that your visitors will know exactly what they are doing when they volunteer for the email. Remember to always include an ‘unsubscribe’ option at the bottom of each newsletter you email to your customer base. Of course, if most of your customers request to be removed from your mailing list then you will have a much more serious problem because your business will be in danger but you must still always give your customers a way out.

4] Can your customers view and edit their personal information?

If you give people the opportunity to view and edit their information, chances are they will provide even more. The reasoning under this is pretty basic: almost no one destroys his or her own data. Therefore, whenever you display customers’ personal information, place clear and visible labels indicating how they can edit it. Be clear about how they can view and edit their information, i.e. ‘You can access all your personally identifiable information that we collect online by logging in and clicking the ‘Change User Info’ link in the box on the right-hand side of every page’. Also, answer questions that might be of extreme importance to some customers such as, ‘Can I review information you have about my child?’.

5] Have you informed customers about changes to your Privacy Policy?

Most businesses make changes to their Privacy Policies every now and again. If you are among these businesses, you should let your customers know how they can have find those changes and revisions. You can include a sentence in your Privacy Policy such as, ‘New versions will be posted on this web site, so please check back periodically for updates’.

6] Do your customers know who to contact in case they have questions about privacy?

Sometimes people might have some pretty specific questions that are not fully covered in your Privacy Policy. For example, where they can learn more about their right to privacy or who they can talk to if they have a question about their privacy. Always include one or more ways in which customers can contact you regarding privacy issues. This point of contact is a very big deal in terms of your customers or visitors reassurance.

7] Can people REALLY understand your privacy policy?

Finally, this issue can make the whole difference between a trusted business and one that looks OK but deep inside you feel you can’t trust. Unfortunately, many Privacy Policies are written by lawyers and because of this contain way too many technicalities and legal jargon. We often do not question the value of legal terminology but I strongly emphasize the fact that a Privacy Policy does not need to sound too serious or elegant. It only needs to be clear and simple, so that your average visitor can understand it with almost no effort. If you use industry or in-house jargon without explanation you might make your visitors suspect that you are trying to pull the wool over their eyes and the final result makes the whole trust building purpose of the Privacy Policy pointless. Sure, you’ll have to talk about your security precautions but talk about them in plain English before you mention any technical words that most people will just not understand.

My advice to you on writing a great Privacy Policy can be summed up in just two phrases: TELL IT AS IT IS! (Don’t lie to your customers) and KEEP IT SIMPLE!


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