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I am curious to know if every website should have a privacy policy and/or a terms of use page. What are the legal implications if a site doesn't have them? Are there certain categories of websites that legally require them?

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You might also be interested in this question: webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/216/… –  artlung Jul 13 '10 at 18:51

6 Answers 6

up vote 3 down vote accepted

This is just my opinion but I would say any site that allows visitors to interact should have a privacy policy and terms of use page. There are really 3 kinds of sites that go from least to most well documented in my mind.

  1. Sites that allow visitor interaction like posting comments without an account
  2. Sites that allow visitors to create accounts and interact with the site
  3. Sites that allow visitors to spend money on things like buying goods, buying services, or donating money.

I think you will always want, if you are not required by law (this part I don't know), to have a privacy policy and terms of use for a site that allows money to change hands. Luckily this is usually done for you by companies like PayPal if you partner with them. In general though you will probably want to have your own terms and privacy policy policy even if it just points to the processors.

The main purpose of the privacy policy and terms of use are to cover the site owner from legal actions. When the site only allows comments there is not much to worry about. If the site allows users to login and create content then there is some room for concern and a small terms and privacy doc are good to just cover yourself or your company from a disgruntled person.

In the end I think having terms and a privacy policy is kind of like having internet security. Web Security is always a function of the strength of what you have against the number of people that want to break it. The bigger a site gets the more likely it is to come under scrutiny by others either looking for a free money or to take advantage of something/someone in a position of power.

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I think all sites should let people know what the web server records, at least, but great answer. –  Tim Post Jul 13 '10 at 17:48

Google Adsense requires a privacy policy.

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Why was this downvoted? It's a correct answer to the question. –  delete Jul 16 '10 at 1:32
    
It answers the question that got me here too... "Why did Google reject my site as incomplete?" +1. –  Mark McDonald Apr 30 '11 at 4:42

Whenever you collect data from users that they may want kept private, Most commonly E-mail addresses, physical addresses, and payment information.

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If you're storing any information about user activity data (including but not limited to: identity information, email addresses, user-agent strings, IP address information, dates and times of user activity, cookies and user preferences, and much much more), you need to consider having a privacy policy.

Have a look at the sample privacy policies from this thread and see if any of the elements they refer to, you refer to your site.

Privacy is a huge area of activity. Check out the EFF site for informations of concern.

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Some jurisdictions require a privacy policy (at least for business sites) by law. You maybe should consult a lawyer for specific advice to your particular site.

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Coming to this late in the day, but the 3 definitions given by the first answer-ee really nail it in my opinion.

Rather than simply being an 'insurance policy' against legal/regulatory action, I think website owners should view this rather as an opportunity to show themselves as transparent and responsible. In a crowded market, this brings with it a competitive advantage.

In the UK, I would say every site should at least have a privacy/cookie usage policy, company number and contact details as a minimum standard of disclosure, whether you're capturing user data or not. Just like if you have a shop, you have an address, name of proprietor and a letterbox for correspondence.

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