Privacy Policy 101: What Every Website Owner Should Know

Privacy Policies Versus Other Website Legal Documents

Privacy Policies Versus Other Website Legal Documents

terms of useQ: What about other legal documents on my website? How do they relate to the privacy policy?

A: That’s something you need to decide and make clear within the policy itself. For example, if there’s a conflict between your website’s terms of use and the privacy policy, which one controls?

What if a visitor becomes your customer? Is there a customer agreement that affects privacy? How? What if it conflicts with the privacy policy? Which provisions govern?

Q: Why should I have other legal documents? Can’t I lump the privacy policy, terms of use, refund policy, etc. all into one document?

A: Although it’s possible to lump them all together, as a practical matter standard practice for liability and other reasons is to split these out into separate documents linked to in your website’s footer.

Q: I don’t want visitors getting hung up on legalese and leaving my site because of it. I’ll just link to the privacy policy in tiny font that blends in with the color of the footer’s background.

A: That’s a bad idea if you want these legal documents to provide you with protection. Many visitors are also savvy enough to understand what you’re doing with fine print. It smacks of dishonesty.

Related Article: How to Make Effective Internet Advertising Disclosures

fine print as deceptive trade practicesThe FTC and other government agencies dislike what they consider to be deceptive trade practices. Consumer protection lawyers make a lot of money suing over such deception.

This includes things like hiding legalese in the fine print. As a practical matter, you’ll want the footer links to your privacy policy and other docs to be at least the same height as the main text in the body of the page…and you’ll want the color to contrast with the background rather than blending into it.

Look at how the major websites do it. Some of the most successful retailers online all link clearly to their privacy policies without it adversely affecting sales conversions.

Let’s be realistic. Most website visitors know these legal documents exist and probably are going to ignore them.

It’s unlikely more than 1% of your visitors are going to hang out and read all of the legalese. Yet you want it clearly available to everyone to read, including any government agencies employees who are checking up on how you do business online. Some of these government workers may even become your customers as part of investigating your business practices…

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Mike Young has been practicing business and technology law since 1994. He's been an entrepreneur since 1988. To get legal help from Attorney Young, click here now or call 214-546-4247 to schedule a phone consultation.

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