Data Privacy Planning for Small Businesses

Whether your small business sells goods and services online, or you’re simply using your website to market to your customers, Better Business Bureau advises that having a quality website privacy policy can build consumer trust and distinguish your business in a crowded online marketplace.

Some federal and state/provincial laws apply to privacy policies for websites that collect and share consumer data, including data collected passively using cookies. There are also limits on how a business can collect sensitive data, such as personal information from children under 13, protected health information, or information collected to provide certain financial products or services (e.g., loans, investment advice, insurance) to consumers

Whether or not it’s legally required for your business, it’s a good idea to develop and keep up a comprehensive privacy policy. Your customers have a right to know what privacy protections they can expect when they interact with your business online.

Even if you’re not processing sales transactions on your site, you may be collecting your visitors’ personal facts to generate leads, make appointments, manage newsletter subscriptions, or to share with advertisers. You’re probably using web analytics to gather facts to optimize your website’s performance.

If you don’t have a privacy policy in place, or your current policy doesn’t accurately reflect your data privacy practices, BBB has created an easy-to-follow guideline for the development and maintenance of a privacy policy. It’s available online for free at bbb.org, along with BBB’s “Data Security – Made Simpler” and other tools for businesses.

Along with information on how to collect, safeguard, store and dispose of customer data, BBB also advises on how to create a culture of privacy in your company, instilling and promoting privacy as a core value. “Safeguard privacy” is one of BBB’s eight “Standards for Trust.” BBB Accredited businesses must pledge to adhere to the “Standards for Trust,” but all businesses can use them to define a corporate culture that advances trust in the marketplace

The new “Data Privacy Planning” guideline also helps businesses plan for growth, and addresses special circumstances when bricks-and-mortar businesses go online, when domestic businesses become international, or when any business makes the leap to mobile

For more business tips, go to bbb.org and click on “For Businesses,” and join our LinkedIn group.

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