If you own or operate a website, you should be aware that you may be subject to multiple privacy laws throughout the United States, the European Union, and China—so if you’re wondering, “Does my website need a privacy policy?”, the answer is unequivocally yes.

Creating globally compliant privacy policies can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not a lawyer. Read on to learn more about website privacy policies and the easiest and cheapest way to stay compliant.

Is a website privacy policy required by law?

If you collect, store, process, or share user data, yes, your website needs a privacy policy, and yes, it’s required by law. It’s typically best to have a privacy policy which complies with all domestic and international laws. In fact, nearly any website can benefit from creating their own privacy policy, even if you don’t plan to collect visitor data in any affected territory.

Even if you only do business in the United States, residents and visitors from the European Union and China are protected by their own privacy laws. Should they happen upon your website, and you collect their data, they may have the protections of their own countries’ laws. If your privacy policy isn’t compliant, you could incur significant fines.

Can I write my own privacy policy? 

You can write your own privacy policy, but unless you dedicate significant time and effort to understanding global privacy laws, there’s a chance that you might not cover all of your bases. It’s always best to have a legal professional advise you as to whether your privacy policy is compliant.

Because privacy law violations can extend into millions of dollars, depending on the breadth of the violation, it behooves website owners to create and update their privacy policies.

The United States does not have a comprehensive privacy law, but certain states do. There are also federal laws governing data protection in limited situations:

  • COPPA: The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) regards data collection for people under 13.
  • ECPA: The Electronic Communications Privacy Act regulates how the government can access electronic communications, such as wiretaps on phone calls and other forms of surveillance.
  • FCRA: The Fair Credit Reporting Act governs who can see a credit report, as well as what kind of information credit bureaus can collect and information collection processes.
  • FERPA: Student educational records are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
  • FTC Act: If websites or apps violate their own privacy policies, the Federal Trade Commission Act lets the FTC discipline them.
  • GLBA: If you’re in a financial business, the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act requires you to disclose how you share data and detail the consumer’s right to opt out.
  • HIPAA: When you’re working in the healthcare industry, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects individuals’ health data when used by covered entities, including doctors and hospitals.
  • VPPA: The Video Privacy Protection Act was originally passed to prevent the disclosure of VHS rental records but its broad wording has kept it relevant even in the age of video streaming.

Do all websites need a privacy policy?

Generally, all websites should have a privacy policy. Even if you’re not intentionally collecting sensitive personal data, trackers and comment functionality collect at least some sort of information. Unless you’re hosted on a larger site, like WordPress, which has its own privacy policy, it’s very important that you create your own website privacy policy. Companies should especially be wary of privacy policy requirements.

Does my app need a privacy policy?

Just as websites who collect data need a privacy policy, apps also need their own custom privacy policy. Whenever you collect, store, process, or share user data, you should inform your users about your privacy practices. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

How to create a privacy policy with SixFifty

Creating privacy policies can be a daunting task—but it doesn’t have to be, when you work with SixFifty. We’ve created software powered by real legal expertise, so all you have to do is answer a few questions about your business and how you use personal data, then download the automatically generated documents. Best of all, we’ll notify you when the laws change—and in the fluctuating technological market, this could save you millions in fines or fees. Save yourself billable hours and time by generating your own custom privacy policy today.

Now that we’ve answered “does my website need a privacy policy,” reach out to the talented SixFifty team today for a product demo. It’s the easiest, fastest and most cost-effective way to ensure that your privacy policy needs are met.