What Should You Look For in a Privacy Policy?

When was the last time you looked at a website's privacy policy? Typically, most people don't look at privacy policies unless forced. Some sites, when they've updated their privacy policy, don't allow users to view the site until they indicate they have seen the policy. While reviewing privacy policies can be time consuming, it's important to do so to protect the information that is important to you.

These questions can help you evaluate a policy.

  1. When was the privacy policy last updated?
    Privacy policies should be updated whenever changes are made to the site, particularly those that affect collection and use of information.

  2. What information does the site collect about you and your devices?
    Information that is collected should be spelled out in detail. For example, does the site collect and save personal information, financial information, device identifiers, location, and other identifiable information.

  3. What do they do with the collected information? Who is it shared with?
    There are many reasons why a site wants to collect information about you. Some only want to customize the experience on their site but others may share it usually for a fee. You want to know what information is shared and with whom it is shared such as other sites, data brokers, advertisers, etc. Failure to read this portion of the policy and opt out of sharing is can result in lots of unwanted targeted ads and email solicitations.

  4. How do they protect the information?
    Do they encrypt all of the information, some of it or none? If they don't use encryption what do they use?

  5. Can you opt out of collection or sharing? If so, how?
    Some sites may allow you to opt out of the collection or sharing of your data. You may have to dig to find out how.

  6. What permissions does a mobile app need?
    A mobile app should explain why it needs particular permissions. In particular you may look to see if it wants permission to use your information when you are not using the app.

For More Information

This article from the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) provides tips for reading a privacy policy from CDT experts.

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