[This post is part of the Exploring Affiliate Marketing series.]
Online privacy is a hot topic these days. Because of questionable privacy practices by some high-profile companies, many people are wary about how their information is handled.
Required for advertising
Google has outright banned bloggers from AdSense for violating their terms, and once you’re banned, that’s it. No reinstatement.
I’ve spent the last week or so reading a ton of privacy policies, mostly on other blogs. I also played around with a few of the more commonly used policy generators out there.
Privacy policies run the gamut from short and vague to long and detailed, making it a bit confusing to figure out exactly what needs to be spelled out.
SerpRank’s generator is primarily geared to cover Google AdSense publishers, so it’s not very comprehensive. Though it does have options to add language for several advertising and affiliate networks such as Commission Junction and Amazon.
I’ve seen this one used quite a bit on other blogs such as on BloggingWithAmy. It covers just about everything you’d need for your blog. You do have to register with the site in order to create your policy, but then you can store and edit multiple policies on that site.
None of the generated policies seemed adequate for what I wanted to communicate to my readers. I wanted my policy to be a bit more personal and detailed than the generated policies. So mine is a custom combination of those I’ve read on several blogs as well as the output from some of the generators.
I’ll walk you through each section of my policy to show how you can write your own.
First and foremost, I will never share your email address or any other personal information to anyone without your direct consent. Period.
This is the introduction. I keep it short and sweet, and assure readers right off the bat that none of their information will be shared without their direct consent, which also makes sure I’m compliant with the California Online Privacy Protection Act.
1. Log Files
Like many other websites, I use log files to help learn about when, from where, and how often traffic flows to this site. The information in the log files include:
- Internet Protocol addresses (IP)
- Types of browser
- Internet Service Provider (ISP)
- Date and time stamp
- Referring and exit pages
- Number of clicks
All of this information is not linked to anything that is personally identifiable.
This section was based on the Log Files section of the SerpRank generator. The “Like many other websites” statement assures readers that what you are doing is not out of the ordinary.
2. Cookies and web beacons
Like nearly all WordPress blogs, this site stores “convenience” cookies on your computer whenever you leave a comment. The cookies record the name, email address, and URL that you enter when you submit a comment so that you won’t have to re-type that info the next time you leave a comment.
Third-party advertisers may also place and read cookies on your browser and/or use web beacons to collect information. TheHobbyBlogger has no access or control over these cookies. You should review the respective privacy policies on any and all third-party ad servers for more information regarding their practices and how to opt-out.
If you wish to disable cookies, you may do so through your web browser options. Instructions for doing so and for other cookie-related management can be found on the specific web browsers’ websites.
Most cookies are benign (user authentication, storing user preferences, keeping track of shopping cart contents or what ads have been clicked), but they can also be used to track a user’s browsing activity, something many people don’t want others to know.
Accordingly, people are a bit suspicious of cookies, so it’s important to let them know that your site uses them and that they can opt out by disabling cookies in their browser settings.
While much of this section was modified from the SerpRank generator, the first paragraph is completely my own. I’m trying to be as detailed and transparent as possible, so I’m going the extra mile to find out about and tell my readers about every cookie.
Google Analytics is a web analytics tool I use to help understand how visitors engage with this website. It reports website trends using cookies and web beacons without identifying individual visitors. You can read more at the Google Analytics Privacy Overview.
Users may choose to receive email blog updates via FeedBurner by submitting an email address to the email subscription form. I use a secure opt-in subscription system and I reserve the right to contact subscribers with information related to this website and blog. Subscribers may unsubscribe anytime and every email delivered will contain an “Unsubscribe” link.
When leaving a comment, users must submit a name and email address. To combat spam, the WordPress blogging platform also records the IP address of anyone submitting a comment.
Again, none of this information will be shared with anyone without your direct permission.
In this section, I address the information that readers give when they subscribe to my email list and submit comments. It’s important to mention that they can unsubscribe from the email list and any time.
Also, I’m surprised that most blog privacy policies don’t address the information that commenters give when they leave comments. I’m not sure that many readers even know that their IP address is logged when they comment. So it’s better to spell it out and inform them.
This is also a good place to repeat that this information won’t be shared with anyone without the reader’s consent. However, I do let them know that I might contact them at the email address they submit so they’re not taken aback when I contact them to say thanks for visiting, or ask them a question regarding a comment.
TheHobbyBlogger.com does not knowingly collect or solicit Personally Identifiable Information from or about children under 13 except as permitted by law. If I discover I have received any information from a child under 13 in violation of this policy, I will delete that information immediately. If you believe TheHobbyBlogger.com has any information from or about anyone under 13, please contact me.
Lots of websites have this statement, so this one is copied nearly word-for-word. It basically says your site does not cater to children younger than 13 years old, and that you will not knowingly collect or keep any information from these children. Having this statement means you don’t have to take further steps to comply with the United States’ Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
This statement is important so no one can complain that they didn’t explicitly agree to how your blog handles their information.
6. Changes to this policy
Last Updated: February 15, 2012.
- Personalize – You’ll notice that I try to personalize the policy by writing in the first person. It’s better to let your readers think they’re hearing from a real person rather than a one-size-fits-all boilerplate policy that feels like a lawyer wrote it. It’ll help convince them that your went all out to make sure you respect their privacy.
- Be definite – Many privacy policies use the words “may” or “might” in order to cover as many bases as possible without having to frequently research and update the policy. Try to research exactly what information you and your third parties collect as much as possible. Using less vague words like “do” and “will” conveys that you’ve done a lot of work to know exactly how your users are affected.
- Read every TOS – Make sure your read and comply with the Terms of Service for all of your advertising and affiliate networks. You don’t want your accounts shut down because you didn’t follow their guidelines for protecting your readers’ privacy.
- California – Note that compliance with the California Online Privacy Protection Act is required if anyone located in the state of California visits your blog, regardless of where your blog is based. Will California authorities come after you if you violate this law and you’re based in a different state? Probably not, but why take a chance?
A grain of salt
I’m not a lawyer; if you want to be absolutely certain that you’re protected, please seek legal advice.
Otherwise, feel free to use my policy as the basis for your own policy, and leave a link to it in the comments so we can all see each others’ policies.
Next up in this series, I’ll tell you what you need to know about nofollowing your affiliate links.