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Why Should You Care About a Site’s Privacy Policy

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Most websites should have a privacy policy (although I don’t think it’s always the easiest thing to find). And then once you do find it, you’ll see a huge amount of what I consider to be legal mumbo jumbo. And because you really should care about this stuff, the question becomes how do you sort through all this stuff?

Most privacy policies usually begin with something around them collecting, using and sharing your personal information or data. For example, here’s how Google, Twitter and Apple’s privacy policies start out:

  • Google (http://www.google.com/policies/privacy/) – “There are many different ways you can use our services – to search for and share information, to communicate with other people or to create new content.”
  • Twitter (https://twitter.com/privacy) – “This Privacy Policy describes how and when Twitter collects, uses and shares your information when you use our Services. Twitter receives your information through our various websites, SMS, APIs, email notifications, applications, buttons, widgets, and ads (the “Services” or “Twitter”) and from our partners and other third parties.”
  • Apple (http://www.apple.com/privacy/) – “Your privacy is important to Apple. So we’ve developed a Privacy Policy that covers how we collect, use, disclose, transfer, and store your information.”

Here’s what you really need to understand about a website’s privacy policy as this can affect you

  • How it gathers information – sites usually use cookies to collect or track information.
  • The type of information it gathers – it is keeping track of your name, age, or email address.
  • What it is doing with the information – make sure you understand how the site is using your information, whether it’s just to provide a better experience for you when you return to the site or it is sharing your data with third parties.
  • Security measures it has in place – how a site is protecting your information that it gathers is critical. This should be not only when the data is being transmitted to them, but also once they have it.

And why is this important? Those factors above can affect you if the site is not taking care of your personal information. It could lead to unwanted spam, identity theft and financial fraud depending on what type of information they have gathered from you and how they are using it or taking care of it.

You should also know that the sites should provide options for you to opt in or opt out of how they share your information. Another key thing is to find out how long the site keeps your information. Some sites keep it forever, while others delete it after a certain amount of time. For instance, you should know what happens to your data if you delete your account.

Yes this is something else for you to check. But in our digitally connected world, it’s something you just gotta do.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! Disclosures.

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