As our society increasingly does business online, lawmakers across the globe are prioritizing data privacy and protection. When you collect, store, or process data in territories with privacy laws, you’re subject to their rules and regulations. Failing to comply with these laws can net significant fines and other penalties. So can you copy and paste a privacy policy?

Privacy policies are key legal disclosures which describe how your company protects an individual’s personal data. They need to be specifically tailored to your company’s location, processes, and more. Copying and pasting could leave you open to significant risk. Here’s why it’s important to create your own individual privacy policy.

Why you shouldn’t copy a privacy policy

It’s tempting to copy a privacy policy, especially if you don’t have a legal team of your own. However, this could leave you open to liability under domestic or global data privacy laws, among other risks.

Privacy policies are specifically tailored legal disclosures to your website visitors. They detail how you collect, store, and process their data, whether you share that data with third parties, how to control their individual data, and how to get in touch with your website or company if they believe there has been a violation.

The biggest reason to avoid copying a privacy policy is that it won’t be specific to your site and your customer base. For instance, imagine that you use a copy-and-pasted privacy policy from another website, which states that you don’t share individual personal data with third parties—but your business shares customer lists with a marketing vendor. That would be a significant misrepresentation of how your business uses individual, identifiable personal data. Because data privacy violations can incur fines ranging from thousands of dollars to hundreds of millions, copying and pasting leaves you vulnerable to financial and legal risk. On top of it all, you run the risk of alienating your user or customer base.

Is it illegal to copy a privacy policy?

Generally, yes, it is illegal to copy a privacy policy. Privacy policies are copyrighted documents. If you or an agent of your company copies and pastes privacy policies—even portions of them—the copyright holder has the right to seek legal recourse. It’s always best to draft your own custom policy from the outset.

Privacy policy compliance

Privacy policy compliance varies by territory. For example, while the United States doesn’t have a federal data privacy protection law, several states do—and their regulations are all different. Furthermore, if you’re doing business or receiving website visitors from the European Union or China, you may be subject to their privacy restrictions if you meet their thresholds.

Generally, your privacy policy will tell your users what kind of information you collect from them, why, and how you do so. It will also describe how individuals can manage, limit, or delete the data you collect.

The definition of personal data can vary between territories, but it’s typically any information that is capable of being associated with a person, either on its own or in combination with other data. Even tracking cookies can collect data which, if used in concert with other information, can personally identify someone. Sensitive personal data is even more highly protected; it can include financial details, biometric data, and information about minors.

Ultimately, the goal is to give consumers control over how and when their personal information is used. Your job as a business or website is to strike the right legal balance between compliance with global data privacy laws, versus getting important business information from your visitors, users, or customers.

How do you create a privacy policy?

Creating a privacy policy can be complex—it’s no wonder people may be tempted to copy and paste. The research can be time-consuming and expensive, especially if you hire an outside legal team to draft one from scratch. Yet resorting to copying and pasting or online, one-size-fits-all templates can leave you open to significant legal and financial liability.

SixFifty has created privacy tools to strike the right balance. Our software pairs real legal global privacy policy expertise with user-friendly technology. Instead of racking up expensive billable hours or doing the research and writing yourself, try SixFifty’s Privacy Docs. All you have to do is answer some questions about your company and download the customized document. Best of all, we’ll notify you if there are any changes to the law, so you can regenerate a new version.

Instead of wondering “can you copy and paste a privacy policy,” schedule a free product demo today!