5 Details To Look For in a Privacy Policy

There are several details you should search for in a privacy policy...

DPF Privacy Policy

It can be challenging for anyone to read many companies’ privacy policies. These tend to include many legal terms and could thus be hard to read.

Still, we advise everyone to spare a moment to actually see (read) what kinds of data the website you’re using/visiting is collecting about its users. In this article, we’ll give you a shortcut on how to do it more effectively – here are five details (keywords) to look for in a privacy policy:

1. Third parties

This is probably the most important part, as it involves your data being shared with or sold to third parties. Many online businesses do this as it enables them to reach “more people like you” through major ad networks operated by Facebook, Google and Microsoft. While you could be fine with that part, as companies seldom share identifiable details for this purpose, there are also websites that sell their users’ data. So search for “third party” and “third parties” in the privacy policy and see what it says about it.

2. Notifications of changes to the privacy policy

The respectable organizations will inform you of any changes to their privacy policies, so you can act on those changes — like stop using the service or file a complaint if it’s possible. On the other hand, some companies also change their privacy policy and don’t notify anyone about it. Ideally, you don’t want to have anything with such organizations. And to be sure, you’ll want to search for keywords such as “changes” or “notify” in the privacy policy.

3. Type of information they collect

All websites collect some information about their users, and we can do little about it. Simply put, your web browser gives away many details about you, like its [browser] name, version, operating system, and, most importantly (for website operators), your IP address — which can tell them where you’re accessing their website from. However, many websites go beyond that and will also “mark you” with several cookies so they can identify you when you return to their website. Plus, there are services requiring you to register and, in the process, ask for even more information — including personally identifiable details such as your address, phone number, and more.

4. Are there options?

Sometimes, you can opt to accept only certain cookies and prevent those being used for user tracking from loading. Many websites complying with the European Union’s GDPR legislation include such options. Also, are there other tweaks you can make and still be able to use the service? On the other hand, there could be some privacy-related options you can’t turn off if you want to use the service. You have to figure out for yourself whether the trade-off is worth it.

5. Check the security measures they use

This is related to privacy as a security breach of the service provider could cause the exposure of your data. You may have heard about the 2018 breach of Marriott International when millions of guest data have been compromised. Or the 2013 breach of Yahoo when 3 billion user accounts were compromised. To be safe, you’ll want to search for security-related keywords in the privacy policy and perhaps even terms of service.

Important keywords

It can be tricky to go through the entire privacy policy, but luckily there is a shortcut. What you’ll want to do instead is to search for several keywords, such as:

  • Marketing/Advertising
  • Store/Storage/Storing
  • Share/Sharing
  • Process
  • Third-Party
  • Data
  • Collect

By doing so, it will be much easier for you to find the information you are looking for. And only then you can decide whether the service you’re looking at is actually worth it. In many cases, some alternatives will take better care of your privacy. So check it all out and make an informed decision. It’s your privacy and your data, after all.