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I have several German project web sites, using different components. Let's say one site uses a social media plugin an the other site doesn't.

Can I use the same, generalized data protection policy text for the two sites? Then I could use a policy generator and just activate all options/sections?

Or... I am only allowed to include those sections that are actually applicable for a specific web site? If I add a section about social media buttons and my website does not include any social media button, I could get admonished?

That would mean, not only when adding but also when removing some component, the policy needs to be adapted accordingly. And I would need some management system for all the policy variants. Merging all the individual project websites in a single main website might also be an (ugly) option.

Please add a reference to corresponding § / law if available.

(From the perspective of a website user, it would be more convenient to only read a single, compact, relevant page instead of hundreds of pages of boring privacy policy stuff, of course. :) )

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  • (not a legal opinion) why not use lots of "may" statements. "The site may include a widget which does something" which would cover if it is there, but not matter if it isn't.
    – Steve
    Jul 27, 2022 at 22:18
  • I don't think this belongs here, its a legal question. I'd be very surprised if you can't use the generalized text provided it is not confusing. Also, if its all a single website, I would not expect each page to have different terms and conditions.
    – davidgo
    Jul 29, 2022 at 6:48

2 Answers 2

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First of all, we need to understand the legal structure in a web page.

Usually you have at least 2 documents:

  • Terms of Service (AKA TOS or General Terms or GA or General Agreement)
  • Privacy Policy

First: It's a contract

First and foremost: The "Terms of Service" is, in fact, a contract.

Between you and the user.

Then inside the TOS, you "include" the terms in the Privacy Policy. You must have a clause in the TOS similar to this one:

Privacy Policy: The Privacy Policy document is considered to be part of this Terms of Service Agreement. All terms and conditions of the Privacy Policy are hereby incorporated by reference as if set forth herein in full.

You have plenty of sample clauses in internet. Choose the one that represents more your case. No legal knowledge needed other than understanding that it is technically possible + using standard English (or Spanish or Deutch or French...) language to make the inclussion.

Sample clauses here: https://www.lawinsider.com/clause/incorporation-by-reference/_3

Find more with google search like [contract clause to include another contract] or [contract clause include by reference]

This separation is just to help the user understand things. In fact you don't have "multiple agreements". You have "one" (whith is the TOS) and the Provacy Policy is "included" in it, so you could have only one single document with all "inline".

But then it'd be more difficult for the user to understand "the service you give" and "what data you collect". This is why it's usually separated into two texts, that in reality form one single agreement.

With all in mind the Privacy Policy becomes an agreement (part of it) and as such is subject to the "agreement rules" in in civil relations.

Agreement = Contract

To all effects an "agreement" and a "contract" are completely equivalent in legal terms. The reason why is that the rights and obligations derived from a contract are to take effect when there's agreement by the parties to enter into the contract.

Example: I propose you I'll paint your home and in exchange you'll wash my car. When you "accept" (=agree) then the contract exists.

So in this explanation any occurrence of "contract" or "agreement" is substituible.

Types if contracts

Once understood the Privacy Policy is a contract, you need to know there are two styles of contract: Customized or General.

The example above about painting the home and washing the car, that's "custom".

But when you sign an electricity or gas or telecom or water provider, you won't be able to "negotiate" the terms. They say "this is what it is, take it or leave it". Then you adhere to it or not. Those are the famous "general conditions".

The power of "IF" clauses

In general, any contract (no matter if custom agreement or general agreement) MAY contain "IF" clauses.

Those are valid and "only enter in force IF the conditional clause evaluates tro true".

Take the same example about the home painting and car washing contract and write it like this:

CLAUSE 1: I'll paint your home tomorrow and in exchange you'll wash my car before sunday.

CLAUSE 2: If tomorrow 23:59 I have not finished painting your home, you'll not have to wash my car.

CLAUSE 3: If you don't wash my car before sunday 23:59 then you'll still have to wash my car anytime during this month plus you'll have to cook my dinner 7 nights all the next week starting the monday immediate after.

So really the contract has 1 normal clause plus 2 conditional clauses that you can completely "skip" if that is not the situation.

In the case that event happens, the clause enters in force. So if you don't wash my car, you are obligated "yes or yes" to cook my dinner. No excuses.

You can use the "IF" clause to make deals with super-powers.

This may seem a bit offtopic but it's worth mentioning!

You can use the "IF" to make business deals that would not be possible otherwise.

Example: This "IF" is very useful to make great investment deals in satartups:

  • Get 2 contracts: One for a future worker (name it Alice) of an Startup and one for a future investor (name it Bob):

For Alice, the future worker:

  • CLAUSE 1: IF I get 500k EUR of investment from Bob or equivalent investor in the next 2 months, you will join the company in 1 week with a salary of 50k EUR per year.
  • CLAUSE 2: IF you back out, you'll pay a penalization 10.000 EUR to me.

then for Bob, the investor:

  • CLAUSE 1: You'll transfer 500k EUR and I won't touch the money except for legal expenses and/or hiring expenses with a limit of 10k.
  • CLAUSE 1: When you transfer the money, I'll hire Alice or equivalent worker in less than 2 weeks. On hiring, I'll be able to use the full invested amount.
  • CLAUSE 2: IF I cannot get Alice or equivalent onboard in 2 weeks I'll give you back 490k EUR immediately and 10k EUR more immediately when I get the penalization from Alice.

Both Alice and Bob are secure:

  • Alice may get a nice new job. The only drawback is that she is "locked" during 2 months and cannot accept any other comittment in that time. After 2 months she is freed.
  • Bob is investing "betting to winner". If he puts the money the talent gets in and the money is never lost. The only drawback is that maybe 10k come "a little bit later" in case of rolling back.

You are secure:

  • You get 500k from Bob.
  • You pay 3k to the notary. 497k in the bank.
  • You pay 5k to "other expenses". 492k in the bank.
  • Alice backs out.
  • You return 490k to Bob. Still 2k in the bank.
  • Alice pays you back 10k after 6 months. 12k in the bank.
  • You return 10k to Bob. 2k in the bank.
  • Those 2k are for you, for the headache.

See the power of conditional clauses? 😳😮

"IF" clauses in general contracts

Back ontopic: In "contracts that have a general text" it's very frequent to have "IF" conditional clauses.

Say for example a travel agency. The travel agency may sell a trip where you go by train. Or car. Or plane.

You may find:

  • Clause 555: IF your trip contains a train ticket you must be in the station 1 hour before the departure.
  • Cluase 556: IF the train has a delay when you arrive you'll have to call this number +55 555 555.
  • Clause 557: IF your trip contains a reantal car, you ...
  • Clause 558: IF you arrive late...
  • Clause 559: IF the weather...
  • Clause 560: IF there's overbooking and your hotel is full...
  • Clause 561: IF our guide is not in the airport to receive you
  • Clause 562: IF there's fire...
  • Clause 563: IF you get ill...

See? You can set an infinite number of "if" clauses, one for each "potential" situation.

This is exactly your case

As stated, an "IF" clause only enters in fore "if" the expression evaluates to "true".

So you have site1 and site2 and you want it homogeneous.

  • Say feature A is common to sites 1, 2 and potential sites 3 and 4. It'll be there for any future project too.
  • Say feature B is common to sites 1 and 2, but you don't know if it'll be for future sites.
  • Feature C is in site 1 but not in 2.
  • Feature D is in site 2 but not in 1.

Take the travel agency example: If train, if car, if plane, if boat... just "if" anything.

In your case:

Privacy policy
==============

Clause 1: The site will do Feature A.

Clause 2: If the site does Feature B then xxxx.

Clause 3: If the site does Feature C then yyyy.

Clause 4: If the site does Feature D then zzzz.

Clause 5: Some other thing happens (note this is not conditional, the conditional ones do NOT need to be the last ones, can be anywhere).

If a feature needs multiple paragraphs you can use "normal language to say it" and maybe make titles for clarity:

Privacy policy
==============

General
-------

Clause 1: The site will do Feature A.

Clause 2: If the site does Feature B then xxxx.

Feature C
---------

Clause 3: Clauses 4 to 6 apply only if the site does Feature C.

Clause 4: yyyy-1.

Clause 5: yyyy-2.

Clause 6: yyyy-3.

Next clauses
------------

Clause 7: If the site does Feature D then zzzz.

Clause 8: Some other thing happens (note this is not conditional, the conditional ones do NOT need to be the last ones, can be anywhere).

In short. Your question: Is it forbidden to add irrelevant info?

Answer: Not forbidden if done properly. Wrap it with a conditional clause and you'll generalize your contract to those 2 initial sites and any other number of sites. If you add a n-th site and you need to do a newer version, I'd recommend to generalize it and deploy a new version to all sites and keep versions synchronized. Easier to manage. Add a "conditions in force from date xxxx in the text" and that's all.

Hope to be clear and with enough explanation to do not simply say "you can" or "you cannot".

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Your Privacy Policy should disclose what data you collect and how you use the collected data. As a best practice, if you operate different businesses with different privacy practices, your Privacy Policy should reflect that.

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