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Creating a website privacy policy

Many people believe that they are anonymous on the internet but this is not so. As you browse the internet you leave a trail of data behind you that is collected by websites and the computers that power the internet.

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Many people believe that they are anonymous on the internet but this is not so. As you browse the internet you leave a trail of data behind you that is collected by websites and the computers that power the internet. When you build your small business website it is strongly advised that you have a written policy that explains your website privacy policy and exactly what you do with any data you collect. By putting a policy in place you will be helping to protect your business from legal challenges and avoid subsequent issues. This article does not constitute legal advice. It is strongly suggested that you get professional legal advice to ensure you are compliant with appropriate legislation. What is a privacy statement? A privacy statement normally sits on a website and is a public declaration of the privacy policy of the company running the site. For small businesses it might be a simple paragraph explaining the organisation's attitude towards privacy; for other larger companies it can be quite a long document outlining in a lot of detail how private data is managed. Specifically, a privacy statement could cover: What personal information is collected and what is done with the data. A choice for users on how their data may be used. Access to information you may have submitted to a site, such as cookies. The security of the data and the fact that it should not be available to anyone else. How a person can complain if they believe their data has been compromised or mismanaged. Why bother? The reputation of your business should be of key importance to you. No matter how small your business is, you need to start building a good reputation from day one. This includes the way that you deal with the private information that you will receive from customers or suppliers. A website privacy statement will help engender trust in your website and business. If you don't have a policy statement on your website but your competitor does, where do you think users would prefer to spend their money? You may find that you are obliged to provide a website privacy policy statement as part of the Data Protection Act. We cover this in more detail about data protection in this article: What you need to know about data protection law. What are cookies? Cookies are small amounts of data copied to your PC by other websites. Cookies will uniquely identify you when you visit a website so that you get to see a consistent set of pages or receive an appropriate personalised welcome screen. Cookies can be used by website owners to track who is visiting their website and when they are doing so. The downside of cookies is that they leave a record on your PC of sites you have visited and essentially remove the (perceived) anonymity of the internet. Many users do not like this and will turn off the cookie facility on their PC. A website privacy statement should contain a paragraph discussing the use of cookies on that particular site. Note: The law on the use of cookies changed in 2011 and has been in force for small businesses since 2012 - find out more. What does a typical privacy statement look like? A typical privacy statement may have the following information: Introduction – what the privacy statement is about, how it may affect users and what they can do to complain or comment. Visitor Information – what happens when you visit the site and what data may be copied to your PC. What is a cookie? – a brief introduction to cookies and why they are useful. Submitting personal information – when you submit any personal data, what you can expect to happen to it and how it will be protected. Access to your personal information – how you can make a request to see their personal data. How to find and control your cookies – information for non-technical people on the role of cookies and how they may be controlled.

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