Privacy and Cookie Policy

What is a Privacy Policy?

A privacy policy is a document that details what personal information you collect from your users, how you use it, and how you keep it private.

The exact contents required will depend on the applicable laws or policies. Also, the definition of what constitutes “personal information” varies, but it often includes names and email addresses, and sometimes IP addresses and browser cookies.

What belongs in a privacy policy in general?

Here’s a structure that might help you with providing the right information to your users in your privacy policy:

  • Who is the site/app owner?
  • What data is being collected? How is that data being collected? You should be clearly explaining how you collect private data through your website. Does your website utilize cookies or an online account system?
  • For which purposes is the data collected? Analytics? Email Marketing? The biggest topic is collection of personal data. If your site is collecting this type of information you really should be explaining to your users (through your privacy policy) what you intend to do with that data
  • How do you store the information you collect?
  • Who within your organization has access to the data?
  • What third parties will have access to the information? Will any third party collect data through widgets (e.g. social buttons) and integrations (e.g. Facebook connect)?
  • For what period of time do you hold collected data?
  • What rights do users have? Can they request to see the data you have on them, can they request to rectify, erase or block their data (under European regulations most of this is mandatory)?
  • Description of process for notifying users and visitors of material changes to the privacy policy
  • Effective date of the privacy policy

Guidance

  • Say what you do: Post a statement of your privacy policy in a conspicuous location on your Web site.
  • Do what you say: Comply with the terms of your privacy policy.
  • In your privacy statement, identify the categories of personal information that you collect through the Web site on people who use or visit your site.
  • In your privacy statement, describe any process you maintain that allows someone to review or ask for changes to any of his or her personal information collected through the Web site.
  • In your privacy statement, describe the process you use to notify those who use or visit your site of changes to your privacy policy.
  • In your privacy statement, identify the effective date of the policy.
  • When was your website privacy policy last updated? A privacy policy is something that should be reviewed (and modified as deemed appropriate) at least once a year (we are talking about technology and technology advances & changes quickly.)

A Guide to Writing Privacy Policies

All organisations should review their privacy policies in the light of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which comes into force on 25 May 2018. At the heart of the GDPR is a requirement for transparency. Your privacy policy is the main way you can communicate clearly to individuals how you collect and use their personal information. This guide covers the key areas that need to be considered.

What does the GDPR say about privacy policies?

Under GDPR the rules on how organisations provide privacy information to individuals are more detailed and specific. The emphasis is on making privacy notices understandable and accessible to individuals and organisations are expected to take appropriate measures to achieve this.

Article 12 of the GDPR specifically states that the data controller (the organisation) should provide any information relating to processing of personal data to data subject (an individual) in a way that is:

  • concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible;
    • written in clear and plain language, particularly if addressed to a child; and
    • free of charge

In Article 13 the GDPR provides further details of what information must be provided to individuals when their personal information is collected.

The ICO has published a Guide to Privacy Notices. In this the term “Privacy Notice” applies both to the information individuals are presented with when they provide their details (i.e. permission statement/data collection form) and more detailed privacy policies.

In terms of the presentation of your Privacy Policy, consider improving the accessibility by tailoring the tone and style to match your intended audience and the house style of your organisation. Also consider providing bite sized pieces of privacy information through layering so that individuals can choose to access more information if they click on a link that takes them to the next layer.

What areas should organisations cover in their privacy policies?

Use the following checklist to help you:

  1. Identify the data controller (i.e. the organisation) and provide the name and contact details of the Data Protection Officer (or other nominated person given that responsibility)
  2. How do you collect personal data (e.g. on-line, face to face, over the phone, in writing, etc)?
  3. Do you source any personal data from publicly available sources and/or from third party data vendors? What do you know about how that data was collected and how the individual data subjects were informed about what would happen to their personal data?
  4. Explain what personal data you are collecting? (i.e. the type of data routinely collected – for example this could include postal address, email, credit card details, date of birth, etc.)
  5. Purpose? Outline what you intend using the data for. For example, is it to provide a service to individuals, to send marketing communications to them (where they have agreed for you to do so) and/or for administrative purposes, etc.
  6. Detail each of the individuals’ rights, where relevant (i.e. to withdraw consent, to object to processing, to request rectification/erasure, data portability, submit a Subject Access Request). Ensure you have clear and easy ways for individuals to exercise these rights.
  7. Explain the people have the right to lodge a complaint with a supervisory authority. In the UK this would be the ICO, so consider providing their contact details (e.g. link to their website).
  8. What legal basis are you relying on to process the personal data? (e.g. consent, contract, legal obligation, public interest, vital interests or legitimate interests)
  9. If you are relying on legitimate interests explain what they are
  10. Provide assurances that appropriate safeguards are in place to ensure personal data is kept secure
  11. Consider whether any data is stored or handled outside of the EEA (European Economic Area). If it is state where and what safeguards are in place to keep it secure. For example, if you share personal data with suppliers outside of the EEA, state that in your privacy policy and explain that there are always appropriate contracts in place.
  12. Consider whether you are collecting special categories of personal data and/or children’s data. If so explain what extra measures you have in place to offer assurances that it is securely protected.
  13. Is the personal data shared with other organisations? If it is shared provide details of the recipients of the data.
  14. Ensure the privacy policy explains any profiling of personal data you may undertake.
  15. Make reference to your organisation’s data retention policy? (see GDPR Data Retention Quick Guide)
  16. If the provision of data is a statutory or contractual requirement, or a requirement necessary to enter into a contract, ensure this is clearly stated together with any consequences of refusing to supply the data.
  17. Leaving your website. Explain that any external links are not your responsibility and that once a user clicks on a link to an external site it will be subject to that organisation’s privacy policies, not yours.
  18. How recent is your Privacy Policy? In line with theme of transparency it is good practice to mention that your privacy policy will be will regularly updated, if that is true, and to detail when your policy was last updated (i.e. month/year).

The ICO recently took part in an international study into website privacy notices alongside regulatory bodies from other countries. Generally, the findings showed that privacy notices were too vague and generally inadequate. The UK Regulator reviewed thirty privacy policies in various sectors and found them lacking.

Transparency is core to the GDPR and through a clear and open privacy policy, you have the opportunity to embrace the spirit of openness and keep individuals fully informed about how you collect and handle their personal data.

Sample Website privacy policy template

This privacy policy sets out how [business name] uses and protects any information that you give [business name] when you use this website.

[business name] is committed to ensuring that your privacy is protected. Should we ask you to provide certain information by which you can be identified when using this website, then you can be assured that it will only be used in accordance with this privacy statement.

[business name] may change this policy from time to time by updating this page. You should check this page from time to time to ensure that you are happy with any changes. This policy is effective from [date].

What we collect

We may collect the following information:

  • name and job title
  • contact information including email address
  • demographic information such as postcode, preferences and interests
  • other information relevant to customer surveys and/or offers

What we do with the information we gather

We require this information to understand your needs and provide you with a better service, and in particular for the following reasons:

  • Internal record keeping.
  • We may use the information to improve our products and services.
  • We may periodically send promotional emails about new products, special offers or other information which we think you may find interesting using the email address which you have provided.
  • From time to time, we may also use your information to contact you for market research purposes. We may contact you by email, phone, fax or mail. We may use the information to customise the website according to your interests.

Security

We are committed to ensuring that your information is secure. In order to prevent unauthorised access or disclosure, we have put in place suitable physical, electronic and managerial procedures to safeguard and secure the information we collect online.

How we use cookies

A cookie is a small file which asks permission to be placed on your computer’s hard drive. Once you agree, the file is added and the cookie helps analyse web traffic or lets you know when you visit a particular site. Cookies allow web applications to respond to you as an individual. The web application can tailor its operations to your needs, likes and dislikes by gathering and remembering information about your preferences.

We use traffic log cookies to identify which pages are being used. This helps us analyse data about webpage traffic and improve our website in order to tailor it to customer needs. We only use this information for statistical analysis purposes and then the data is removed from the system.

Overall, cookies help us provide you with a better website by enabling us to monitor which pages you find useful and which you do not. A cookie in no way gives us access to your computer or any information about you, other than the data you choose to share with us.

You can choose to accept or decline cookies. Most web browsers automatically accept cookies, but you can usually modify your browser setting to decline cookies if you prefer. This may prevent you from taking full advantage of the website.

Links to other websites

Our website may contain links to other websites of interest. However, once you have used these links to leave our site, you should note that we do not have any control over that other website. Therefore, we cannot be responsible for the protection and privacy of any information which you provide whilst visiting such sites and such sites are not governed by this privacy statement. You should exercise caution and look at the privacy statement applicable to the website in question.

Controlling your personal information

You may choose to restrict the collection or use of your personal information in the following ways:

  • whenever you are asked to fill in a form on the website, look for the box that you can click to indicate that you do not want the information to be used by anybody for direct marketing purposes
  • if you have previously agreed to us using your personal information for direct marketing purposes, you may change your mind at any time by writing to or emailing us at [email address]

We will not sell, distribute or lease your personal information to third parties unless we have your permission or are required by law to do so. We may use your personal information to send you promotional information about third parties which we think you may find interesting if you tell us that you wish this to happen.

You may request details of personal information which we hold about you under General Data Protection Regulation. If you would like a copy of the information held on you please write to [address].

If you believe that any information we are holding on you is incorrect or incomplete, please write to or email us as soon as possible at the above address. We will promptly correct any information found to be incorrect.