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Mar 17, 201412:07 PMLegal Login

with Mindi Giftos

Why your website needs a good privacy policy

(page 1 of 2)

When designing a website or considering your website’s compliance with various federal and state laws, the question of whether a privacy policy is really necessary may arise. Certainly, most websites today have privacy policies, but they vary in scope, content, and protections for the website user and the website owner.

First, answer a few questions to determine the applicability of a privacy policy to your website:

  • Is your website an information-only site? Is reading the site the only way for users to interact with it?
  • Can users register for an account on your website? Can they submit their email address to receive updates?
  • Do you have a shopping cart or a donation platform?
  • Do you or your website host track visitors to the website, whether automatically or intentionally?

If the answer to any of the above questions is “yes,” your website needs a privacy policy. Virtually all website host platforms track website visitors’ Internet protocol (IP) addresses, and most websites track more information than IP addresses. Any website that tracks personal information of any kind should have a privacy policy to inform users what it does with their information and to protect the website’s owner in the event of a dispute.

The only current federal law requiring websites to have privacy policies concerns businesses that target children under the age of 13 or collect personal information from them online (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act). However, websites that attract visitors from different states must comply with the requirements of those states — whether those states require a privacy policy or require certain content within the privacy policy. Often, website owners must comply with the law in the state that has the most stringent guidelines, because visitors from almost all states are virtually guaranteed for most sites.

For example, California requires operators of commercial websites or online services that collect personal information on California residents through a website to conspicuously post a privacy policy on the site and to comply with its policy (California Business and Professions Code §§ 22575-22578). The privacy policy must identify the categories of personally identifiable information collected about site visitors and the categories of third parties with whom the operator may share the information, among other requirements.

(Continued)

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About This Blog

Mindi Giftos and her colleagues in Husch Blackwell’s Technology Law group handle a wide variety of issues related to emerging and established technologies, including intellectual property, development and licensing, commercial contracting, and corporate transactions across a broad range of industries.

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