Do I really need a Privacy Statement on my Website?
But first, let’s answer one of the most pressing questions.
Does anyone even read privacy policies?
- Increase customer trust: When your visitors or clients become concerned about the privacy of their personal information, they have a resource they can inspect to be reassured. This document helps reinforce their perception of trust for your company or organization.
- Reduce risk and liability: By publishing an official document discussing visitor privacy, you’re also taking the first steps towards ensuring you comply with your legal obligations surrounding the management of customer data and are therefore protecting yourself from associated risks surrounding data loss or theft.
Let’s examine the major framework dictating privacy requirements in Canada: PIPEDA
PIPEDA: Canada’s Answer to Privacy Concerns
If you are a Canadian company or you collect the information of your Canadian visitors, then you are subject to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) of Canada.
PIPEDA defines personal information and sets out 10 principles that every business needs to address. According to PIPEDA, there are two types of personal information:
- Customer, such as financial information and shipping information.
- Employee, such as SIN numbers, resumes, and employment records.
Each of the 10 principles are detailed in schedule 1. For example, principle 3 talks about the need for consent before the collection of personal information and how you can use and dispose of this information. PIPEDA also includes audit and compliance procedures.
The Privacy Commissioner’s website has a guide that walks your through each of the principles and how to address them. There are also an interesting archive of past cases that provide specific examples and how they were addressed.
Other Privacy Considerations for Website Owners
PIPEDA’s 10 principles are wide ranging but there are some other fine grain details that a website owner should be aware of.
Subscribers & Anti-Spam
If you plan to collect emails for a contact list, you will be collecting personal information. You should be aware that there is Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) which dictates how to gather, maintain and use this type of information. Among other things, this legislation has rules governing consent, how to provide ways to unsubscribe, data protection and explicit use provisions. For a quick look, check out their fast facts page.
Cookies are most commonly used to track a visitors website activity, often acting as identification cards. While cookies are generally an important part of websites that provide users with useful functionality, it's also caused some concern regarding the privacy of one’s personal information. Due to the different types of cookies and the diversity of information they can collect, the Canadian Government does not require website operators to stop using cookies. Instead, the official directives mention that it is website visitor's responsibility to manage their cookie preferences:
To protect your privacy on the web, you need to learn about the cookie controls provided in your browser.”
Want to know more? You can find detailed information on web tracking with cookies within the website for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
Final Note About Privacy
Other than the legal obligations of a website owner, privacy is an important issue to all members of the online community. Perhaps you stop yourself from speeding through a school zone or littering on the streets because it is illegal, but you probably also see the community benefit.
We need to look out for each other and our data to ensure a thriving internet community in Canada because we all benefit in the end. Just don’t ask for anyone’s first-born children, though!
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Sick of being asked on every web site I visit!