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When Is the Correct Time to Issue a Privacy Policy?

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A privacy policy is crucial for compliance with the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) rules. It explains how a data controller processes individuals’ data. Organisations must understand the purpose of a privacy policy, what it must include, and when to issue it to individuals. This article will explore what a privacy policy is and when the correct time to issue it is. 

What Is a Privacy Policy, and Do I Need One?

A privacy policy is an essential document that informs individuals about how an organisation intends to use their data. 

 Organisations may collect a range of information from individuals, such as: 

  • contact information, including names, email addresses and phone numbers; 
  • technical data such as IP addresses; or 
  • bank details and financial information. 

It is vital that individuals fully understand how an organisation will use their data and why – this is a strict legal obligation for data controllers. 

A privacy policy includes mandatory disclosures about the types of personal data collected, intended use, data retention periods, data sharing with third parties, the legal basis for processing, cross-border data transfers, and measures to protect personal data. Individuals should also understand their right to complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the UK data protection regulator. 

Drafting a policy that complies with UK privacy laws requires careful attention to detail. It involves thoroughly reviewing the types of personal data processed and identifying collection points through apps, websites, or in-person interactions.

Data controllers are individuals or organisations that decide how and why to use personal data. They are obligated to use a privacy policy and provide transparent information about data processing to ensure compliance with the UK GDPR principles on transparency. 

When Should I Issue a Privacy Policy?

Understanding when you should issue a privacy policy to individual data subjects is vital. It is essential that individuals fully understand how you intend to use their data from the outset. 

Once you have drafted a privacy policy, you should ensure the following:

Provide the Privacy Policy at The Point Of Data Collection 

You should provide a privacy policy when collecting personal data. The UK ICO has stated that the policy should be provided to individuals when their data is first collected. 

A privacy policy should also be available to individuals should they want to see it later. The ICO explains that individuals must know where to find a privacy policy, whether provided through a poster, web page, or pop-up. Organisations must also tell individuals where to see privacy information as soon as possible, and within one month, if they have not collected their details directly. 

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The critical point to understand here is that individuals should understand how you will use their data before they collect it. For instance, your website may collect information about individuals for analysis purposes, and you may seek to share it with third parties. An individual should be able to see this information clearly in your privacy policy to decide whether they wish to share their data with you or if you will use it in this way. As such, you should provide this information before collecting personal data. In practice, your website can set out a pop-up privacy policy which individuals click to scroll through and read before submitting their personal information onto your website. 

Providing a privacy policy upfront is not always straightforward. You must carefully consider the requirement to provide privacy information in specific scenarios, such as collecting data via physical forms from individuals in person or over the telephone. In such cases, providing complete privacy information upfront can be challenging. If you need more clarification on how to provide privacy information, you should seek legal advice. 

Update Your Privacy Policy When Necessary and Provide Information

The UK ICO also requires organisations to regularly review their privacy policies to ensure they are accurate and up-to-date. Further, organisations are required to actively bring any privacy policy changes to the attention of data subjects.

You may need to review and update your privacy policy several times.

For example:

  • you may change the types of personal data you collect – for instance, you may launch a new service, which means you need to collect new types of personal data;
  • you may use data for different purposes, such as direct marketing; or
  • you may change your data retention periods or start sharing personal data with new third parties.

As such, you will need to update your privacy policy accordingly. When your data processing practices change, you must update individuals for transparency. For instance, you could email data subjects to inform them about the changes and attach a new version of the privacy policy. It is vital to ensure that individuals are updated about privacy policy changes to ensure compliance and foster trust with individuals. 

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Key Takeaways

A privacy policy is a vital document for UK GDPR compliance. Its purpose is to fully inform individuals about how organisations use their personal information. When personal data is collected, an organisation must issue a privacy policy to ensure that individuals understand the intended data processing practices from the outset. It should always be readily available to individuals, offering transparency and clarity about handling personal information. 

Additionally, a privacy policy must be updated whenever there are changes in data collection practices, ensuring ongoing compliance and maintaining transparency with users regarding any modifications to data processing procedures. Individuals also need to know about any privacy policy updates from time to time, so you should inform them about updates to your privacy policy – for instance, by emailing them an updated version or a link to it. 

If you need support with a privacy policy, our experienced data, privacy, and IT lawyers can assist you as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0808 196 8584 or visit our membership page.

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Sej Lamba

Sej Lamba

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