This agreement is required by law if you collect personal data. Personal data is any kind of data or information that can be considered personal (identifies an individual) such as:
First and last name
Billing and shipping address
Credit card information
In 1968, Council of Europe did studies on the threat of the Internet expansion as they were concerned with the effects of technology on human rights. This lead to the development of policies that were to be developed to protect personal data.
This agreement can also be known under these names:
The requirements for Privacy Policies may differ from one country to another depending on the legislation. However, most privacy laws identify the following critical points that a business must comply with when dealing with personal data:
Notice - Data collectors must clearly disclose what they are doing with the personal information from users before collecting it.
Choice - The companies collecting the data must respect the choices of users on what information they choose to provide.
Access - Users should be able to view, update or request the removal of personal data collected by the company.
Security - Companies are entirely responsible for the accuracy and security (keeping it properly away from unauthorized eyes and hands) of the collected personal information.
WordPress blogs, or any other platforms: Joomla!, Drupal etc.
In the US, privacy legislation may vary from one state to another. Certain federal laws govern users' data in some circumstances, such as in these examples:
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act - This act obliges organizations to offer clear and accurate statements about their information collecting practices and it also limits usage and sharing of financial data.
COPPA - This act is especially for businesses that collect information about children under 13 years of age.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act - This act applies to online health services as well.
This law established acceptable standards to limit and organize personal data gathering, usage, and disclosure by commercial institutions. This means that organizations may gather, use and disclose that percent of information for purposes that a reasonable person would consider fit in the circumstance.
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada stands for receiving and peacefully taking care of complaints against organizations. Its purpose is to solve privacy matters through compliance, not through enforcement. It reaches complaints, spreads the importance of awareness of and conducts studies about privacy issues.
Before you draft this agreement for your business, consider the basic requirements for most online businesses that deal with personal data from users (this includes SaaS apps or Facebook apps as well):
That the privacy of your users is protected.
That you take full responsibility to protect the privacy of your users.
Users need to know exactly what kinds of personal data you collect from them.
To help develop new services or improve your existing services
To send users emails about special offers, new services or other information they may be interested in
To personalize their sessions on your website in order to better fit their interests, such as offering them relevant, individually tailored content
Disclose if any third parties are involved in collecting personal information in your name, i.e. you use MailChimp to collect email addresses to send weekly updates to your members.
The Information Collection and Use section is the most important section of the entire agreement where you need to inform users what kind of personal information you collect and how you are using that information.
Here's how Asana, a project management tool, informs users that the tool collects personal information:
The policy goes on to inform users about what kinds of information they may provide and how (by becoming a member, by connecting through Facebook, Twitter etc.):
The intro also specifies four main reasons why the company collects personal information:
A Log Data disclosure section should inform users that certain data are collected automatically from the web browser users are using and through the web server you're using: IP addresses, browser types (Firefox, Chrome etc.), browser versions and various pages that users are visiting.
Buffer includes a sub-clause about log data in its clause about personal information that is automatically obtained from its users:
A Cookies disclosure should inform users that you may store cookies on their computers when they visit your website. This applies even if you use Google Analytics (which would store cookies) or any other third party that would store cookies.
A Links to Other Sites section should disclose that your website may link to other websites outside your control or ownership, i.e. linking to a news website, and that users are advised to read the Privacy Policies of each website they visit.
A Security disclosure in the policy can give users assurance that their personal data is well protected, but you may also want to note that no method is 100% secure.
"The security of your Personal Information is important to us, but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet, or method of electronic storage, is 100% secure. While we strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect your Personal Information, we cannot guarantee its absolute security."
Example of trust elements can include SSL certificates. Definitely use SSL certificates if you have an ecommerce store.
What kind of personal information do you collect?
What kind of personal information is collected automatically, e.g. via the web server (Apache, nginx etc.)?
What kind of third parties are collecting personal information from your users?
How are you using that personal information?
Do you send promotional emails (newsletters)? If yes, can users opt-out? If so, how?
Always use the clickwrap method to get your users to agree to your terms.
With clickwrap, a user is informed of the legal agreements and must take some action that demonstrates that they're clearly accepting the terms. Using checkboxes is a best practice, such as these on the Adobe ID sign-up page:
Let's take a look at some real Privacy Policies from real businesses.
GitHub links to its Privacy Statement from the footer of each web page:
The Privacy Statement includes a "short version" of what GitHub's privacy practices are.
Perhaps the most important part of GitHub's Privacy Statement is the Summary section. A link to each section is provided, as well as a short overview of what information will be found in that section:
In the example below from Dropbox, you can see how a user can navigate to the "Legal & Privacy" menu right from within the app:
Clicking this menu will take the user to another menu screen that shows the full list of legal agreements:
The same "Mobile Privacy and Legal Notice" agreement is embedded in eBay's iOS app: