April 29, 2021

Data Privacy on Websites

Breaches in online security have become an important yet “touchy” subject as the world fully embraces the digital age.  Users are often hesitant on clicking anything or interacting with your website, fearing that it might trigger unwelcome security risks. With news surfacing about social media platforms, messaging apps, and websites using personal data for ad targeting, political purposes, and other activities without explicit consent from users, regulations have been enacted to make sure that users have control over what kind of information they want to share over the internet and know what is being done with such information. 

For budding businesses, data privacy in their website has become one of the primary concerns and considerations when setting up shop online. You may be excited to propel your website to new heights. But to make sure that you’re not breaking any laws and regulations, let’s talk about how your website can better protect your users’ data.

DATA PRIVACY LAWS AND REGULATIONS

Each country and region has their own set of data privacy laws. These have various levels of strictness and flexibility when it comes to regulating websites who process information and data from its users.

You can try to research the ones that will apply for your website, but there is one law that will always come up once you start: the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union (EU). 

What is General Data Protection Regulation?

In a nutshell, the GDPR is a set of data regulation and protection rules passed by the EU to give individuals more control over how their personal data are collected, used, and protected online. Under the GDPR, it is the legal responsibility of the website owners and operators to make sure that personal data is collected and processed lawfully.

Within the scope of the GDPR, websites accessed within the EU are required to uphold its standards. If your business/company operates outside of the EU, you would assume that this would not apply to you. However, if you process personal data of EU citizens or residents (or plan to do so), or you plan to offer products and services to them, then this will apply to you as well.

As a general rule, if you are compliant with the requirements of the GDPR, you will (by default) end up complying with most privacy laws around the world. So how do you make sure you comply with the rules within the GDPR?

SETTING UP YOUR PRIVACY AND COOKIE POLICIES

Following the measures set within the GDPR requires setting up a Privacy Policy and a Cookie Policy for your website. 

You’ve probably seen these in countless websites already, especially since these appear as pop-ups that often prevent users from completely accessing the freshly-loaded website. Although they may seem annoying, having them ensures your users’ data is protected and the website is GDPR-compliant. Let’s take a look at each policy and how you can set up one for your website:

Privacy Policy

Whether you’re asking for general customer information such as their names or more sensitive ones like family information, you should inform the users of your website about what you are going to do with the data they provide. You can do this in the form of a Privacy Policy set within your website. 

A Privacy Policy is a statement or agreement that specifies if a website collects personal data from its customers and visitors, what kind of personal data that website will collect, and what the website will do with such data. It explicitly describes whether that information is kept confidential, or is shared with or sold to third parties.

Some of the personal data about your users and visitors that your website will collect may include the following:

  • First and last name
  • Age
  • Sex and gender
  • Email Address
  • Billing and shipping address
  • Credit card information

Online resources are available where you can generate a Privacy Policy for your website. Just keep in mind that your Privacy Policy must be GDPR-compliant. 

Cookie Policy

Aside from Privacy Policy, another requirement that you should have in your website is a Cookie Policy. To understand what a Cookie Policy is, it’s best to know what cookies are first and their function in your website.

In simple terms, cookies are small files that websites send to your browser that the sites use to monitor you and remember certain information about you—like your login information, preferred language, device settings, and browsing settings. Using this information, cookies can help enhance a user’s experience of the website and possibly improve its ability to reconnect with them later.

Your Cookie Policy tells your users and visitors the cookies your website is using, the data these cookies are collecting, for what purposes, for how long they are active, and where in the world this data is sent. Your Cookie Policy must also inform your users and visitors of how they can revoke consent to or opt out of having their personal data collected, processed, and shared. 

Think of it this way: when you visit a weather forecasting website, you input your country and city to check the weather in your area. The next time you visit the same website, it will remember that information because of cookies.

Creating a Cookie Policy for your website

Requirements for your Cookie Policy

Having a Cookie Policy alone is not a guarantee that your website is automatically up to the standards of data privacy laws. To make sure that it’s GDPR-compliant, your Cookie Policy must have these following elements:

  1. A notification that informs that your website has active cookies and explaining to your users and visitors what they are
  2. The kinds of cookies that are currently active and set on the website 
  3. The length these cookies persist on the user’s browser
  4. Reasons why you need to use these particular cookies
  5. Where the data is sent and with whom it is shared with
  6. How users can opt out of cookies placed on their devices
Preparing your Cookie Policy

Now that you know what you need to have in your Cookie Policy, let’s take a look what you need to do to start writing your own: 

  1. Find out what cookies your website is using

Be sure to know what specific cookies you are running on your website. It’s important that the information you give to your users is accurate and true. So if you’re thinking about copying another website’s Cookie Policy, it won’t work. One website’s cookies may not be the same as the cookies on yours.

  1. Keep your policy short and simple

Avoid adding too much fluff on your Cookie Policy. Keep it straight to the point and easy to understand, but always stick to the facts.

Once you’ve prepared these, you may use any available online resource to generate your own Cookie Policy and place it on your website. Make sure that your Cookie Policy is prominently seen and easy to spot as it is also a requirement by the GDPR.

By applying these two policies, you can comply with established laws and regulations and ensure security and transparency to anyone who visits your website . You will also build a good reputation for your website and, in turn, for your business. Any form of data breach, especially for a small business, can be a huge damage for your business.

You should always remember that keeping your customers’ data and private information safe is a responsibility that any website and business owner should take seriously. Even with basic knowledge of the GDPR and applying it in the form of a Privacy and Cookie Policy, you’ve already made a significant step in making your website a data-privacy-friendly one. Being compliant to data privacy regulations maintains an honest and transparent communication between you and the users when it comes to what you do with their data. After all, you wouldn’t want anyone to use your own private information for anything without your consent, right?

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