Law, Small Business & Startups, and Technology

Do you really need a privacy policy for your business website?

September 29, 2017
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Many small business owners ask whether they really need to have a privacy policy on their simple website. The short answer is: Yes, they probably do.

A privacy policy is a statement that details what information you collect from your website visitors, how you use that information, with whom you share it and whether users can opt-out of sharing information.

Although there isn’t currently a federal law that requires all U.S. businesses have a privacy policy, most businesses are still required to have one. Heavily regulated businesses in industries such as health care and financial services are subject to laws imposing very specific requirements regarding what businesses may do with personal information they collect, and what their privacy policies must say.

If a business has customers who reside in California or another state with robust consumer privacy laws, that business must comply with that state’s laws requiring a privacy policy. Canada and the countries within the European Union also have put laws and directives into place requiring businesses within those jurisdictions have a privacy policy.

In addition to the various laws requiring a privacy policy, third party service providers also often require businesses have a privacy policy in place. For example, Google requires a business using Google Analytics (such as AdWords and AdSense) have a privacy policy that both describes how cookies are used to provide ads and also gives information about how visitors can opt-out of certain practices. Businesses launching apps through either Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store are similarly required to have privacy policies in place.

If you collect any information on, about, or through your website, then you need a privacy policy. And, unless you want to receive a nasty letter from the Federal Trade Commission, your privacy policy should be carefully tailored to reflect your actual practices. Businesses should consult with an experienced attorney to ensure they have a practical and legally compliant policy.

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