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Why is a Website Privacy Policy a High-Risk Document?

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A website privacy policy is a high-risk document in the United Kingdom. This document is crucial to ensure your business complies with the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR). It is vital for data controllers who collect personal data via a website, as this is a legal requirement. A privacy policy published on a website is an outward, public-facing document. This document can quickly demonstrate whether your business complies with data protection laws. This article will explore why a website privacy policy is high risk and why it is essential to get this document right. 

What is a Website Privacy Policy?

A website privacy policy is critical due to the strict transparency requirements set out by the UK GDPR, an essential legal obligation. A website privacy policy functions as a wide-ranging document. This document defines your business’s intentions and methods of obtaining and using personal data collected via your website. 

Through this policy, website users are informed of their personal data and privacy rights in relation to a data controller processing this information. Your business’s website likely collects users’ personal details. If your website does this, you need this policy. Personal details of your users could range from their IP address, to contact details, including their email address. 

What Are the Key Inclusions in a Website Privacy Policy?

As discussed, it is imperative your website’s privacy policy is clearly displayed. Individuals should have viewed your privacy policy before you collect their personal data. Within this document, critical information must be communicated. Your website privacy policy should discuss: 

  • the types of personal data you process and why; 
  • what you intend to use users’ personal data for; 
  • how long you intend to keep the personal data; 
  • who will have access to the personal data; 
  • the possibility your users’ personal data may be transferred to a third party outside the United Kingdom;
  • what security measures you have in place to protect the personal data you have collected; and 
  • what rights your users have in relation to the data collected. 

Your website privacy policy should also outline the valid lawful basis for which your business processes personal data. For instance, you should specify whether your business relies on users’ consent or legitimate interests. It should further disclose whether your business collects sensitive personal information or special category data. 

The details of the information provided within a website privacy policy will differ based on your business’s data usage practices. However, it is imperative to ensure your business adheres to these strict transparency requirements. Otherwise, your business may deemed to be non-compliant with the UK GDPR. Your business will likely face subsequent ramifications as a result. As such, your website privacy policy needs to be drafted with a keen eye for attention to detail. Further, your policy needs to accurately represent your data processing practices. 

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Why Is a Website Privacy Policy a High-Risk Document?

1.    A Website Privacy Policy is Outward Facing 

A website privacy policy is outward-facing and signifies your company’s privacy practices and how you handle personal information. Third parties, including data protection regulators, can view it and see if your website has a compliant privacy policy. A website’s privacy policy is often pivotal to determining whether your business has sufficiently complied with the UK GDPR. For instance, suppose your website collects substantial amounts of data but has no privacy policy. This raises serious concerns about your company’s efforts towards compliance.

A customer may raise a complaint about your website’s data protection practices. Subsequently, the data protection regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) may get involved and review your website’s privacy policy. If your website has a non-compliant privacy policy, your business may face possible enforcement action.

2.    A Website Privacy Policy May Quickly Become Outdated  

A website privacy policy is mandatory for data controllers who collect personal data via their website. Users and all website visitors must understand how your website uses their user data. For instance, your website visitors must understand how you will process their personal data. This may be in the form of their email address or broader contract information. 

Common mistakes in a privacy policy include not keeping the document up to date. It is vital that your business reviews its privacy policies from time to time. You must ensure your privacy policy is accurate. 

Websites are particularly high risk in this respect because they can constantly change. 

For instance, as a website owner, you may:

  • start to collect new categories of personal data from individuals, for instance, when launching a new product or service; or   
  • begin using collected personal data for marketing purposes; or 
  • change the contact details of the data protection officer who handles inquiries from website visitors about their data privacy rights. 

There may also be changes in the law that require your website privacy policy to be updated. It may be challenging for you to keep up with such changes. As such, your website privacy policy may become outdated from time to time. 

If your website’s privacy policy is not regularly updated, it will not be UK GDPR compliant. A website privacy policy that is not compliant can result in various negative consequences. These consequences range from complaints from your customers to regulatory action against your business. 

3. A Website Privacy Policy Can Impact Customer Trust   

A poorly drafted or incorrect privacy policy can damage your business’s reputation and destroy customer trust. This is particularly significant in our digital age, where companies are sharing vast amounts of data for business purposes. A potential savvy business customer may review your website’s privacy policy. If your website privacy policy is poorly drafted or non-compliant; this will raise questions about how seriously your business treats UK GDPR compliance. This could also cast doubt over how well your business safeguards the potential customer’s data. As such, a potential customer may decide not to engage with your business if they feel their personal data will not be adequately protected. 

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Key Takeaways

Many businesses operate websites that collect or process personal data. As such, website privacy policies are crucial documents. These outward-facing documents and website personal data usage can quickly change, so they are exceptionally high risk. For instance, a non-compliant or poorly drafted privacy policy can suggest a business is not UK GDPR compliant. This can damage your business’s reputation. If you require support with a compliant website privacy policy, you can work with a specialist data protection lawyer to help you. Businesses should act cautiously when using online tools such as privacy policy generators and website privacy policy templates. These tools and templates may be too generic. Consequently, using them may mean your business falls short of UK GDPR compliance by using an inaccurate privacy policy.

If you need help creating a robust and comprehensive website privacy policy, contact our experienced IT lawyers 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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