Developing a Privacy Policy for Your Web Site

A privacy policy is a clear statement of what information about the visitor you collect and what you do with it.

Clearly, we need to do what we can to make our visitors feel safe and secure in all of our relationships with them. This becomes even more critical as we move more towards one-on-one marketing and personalizing our sites based upon the information that we have learned from them.

Some web site visitors want ultimate anonymity. Others don't mind providing some personal information and having their information used by companies for sales or other business purposes. But even they want to have the choice of how their information will be used. Online customers want control over their personal data. Your privacy policy should reflect your customers' desires.

Advantages Of A Privacy Policy
An effective privacy policy can:

  • Decrease customers' fear over providing personal information.

  • Make your online users more inclined to do business with a higher level of confidence.

  • Encourage your customers' participation in your one-on-one web marketing and long-term relationship building efforts. Personalizing a Web site has benefits for both the users and Web marketers--users receive personalized service and marketers learn more about their customers and what is working and not working on their Web site.

  • Increase the accuracy or truthfulness of the information given by your visitors. Again, personalization based on false data is useless, and perhaps harmful.

  • Gain visitor trust - the bottom line necessary for doing business together.

  • A privacy policy is actually required for sites dealing with government data.

How To Develop Your Privacy Policy
What sort of information should your privacy policy include?

There are various options:

  • Tell them what information you collect.

  • Tell them how the information will be used. Will you use it to send newsletters? Offers? From your company only? From other companies?

  • Tell them whether you plan, or want to share the information to a third party. If so, under what circumstances, and for what uses.

  • Give the customer the choice of how you are allowed to use information provided.

  • Give the customer the choice of whether the information can be provided to a third party.

  • 'Opt-In' vs 'Opt-Out' - There is debate over the idea of providing an 'opt-in' or an 'opt-out' policy. Should the default option be to use an 'opt-out' policy where the information is used unless otherwise informed by the visitor, or an 'opt-in' policy where the visitor has to provide permission prior to the information beig used. Some users feel comfortable with 'opting out' while other users prefer to 'opt in' and maintain ultimate control. We believe in the 'opt-in' policy. You may feel otherwise. Knowing your customers will help you determine what is best for your site.

  • Tell them about any SSL encryption employed and how that makes the use of the credit card or other personal information safe. Mention that the credit card company guarantees the security of the use of the card through SSL enabled sites.

  • Use the Privacy Policy sample by the Better Business Bureau as a check list for other issues you need to address in your policy statement and to get your creative juices flowing for creating your privacy policy. Their Sample Privacy Policy template is found at:

  • Educate the visitors about the specific benefits and services they will receive when they provide personal, preference and interest information. Some of the benefits that you could convey include:

    • Choice. Web services based on online profiling give users the choice of receiving information or advertising that meets their own declared preferences or interests. When designing your online profiling methods, consider letting customers have control over their profile. Don't just add information or let them build their profile, let them also modify it. Or, let them maintain multiple profiles.

    • Time savings. Let your customers know that you will save them time. If they build their own profile, your web site can save them time when they are searching for products, services or information that matches their unique needs.

    • Personalized service. Your customers want to know that you are meeting their unique needs instead of pushing products or services that are not of interest to them. Let them know you are looking out for their best interests.

    • Extras. Some sites "bribe" the users with rewards, such as premium content, to give information to be used with the one-on-one marketing process.

  • Use plain language (avoiding legalese) to enable visitors to quickly understand how you collect and use their personal information. Your visitors will trust you more and your sales will increase.

If you have any questions, we would be pleased to discuss this topic further.