Why are websites so adamant about sharing their shiny new update with you? Why are they all updating their privacy policies at the same time? Why should I even care?
Here’s what you need to know about privacy policies, why they’re important, and why everyone is seemingly updating them in a panic.
You have probably heard of privacy policies before, even if you’ve never read one. Just having one seemed like enough for most websites to build trust with their visitors, even though most people didn’t know what it meant. After all, the word privacy does sound nice, doesn’t it? Well, we didn’t really know what we were getting into when we were surfing the web even just a few years ago.
Today, privacy policies on the web are a big deal. They are legal statements, and in some case, an actual legal document, that shares information about how a website gathers, uses, discloses and manages visitor information. Its primary goal is to protect the person who visits a website, but it’s also meant to inform visitors.
Why you should care
The fact that this blog article is listed on our identity theft blog page should give you a hint. Any time you provide information on a website, that website gets to keep it forever, and that information could be used against you.
On some websites, it still doesn’t seem like a big deal. After all, it’s not like you’re going around entering your address or social security number on every website you visit. You’re just giving your name and maybe a birthday. Sometimes you don’t provide any information at all!
It’s true that sites gather a wide range of data that can include:
- Date of birth
- Marital status
- Contact information
- Financial records
- Credit information
Some websites today go even further than that. Ever get that message about cookies when you open a website? That means that website is storing a small file on your computer that outlines your past behavior on that website, learning your habits and interests as the file is updated.
What’s that website doing with all that information? In some cases, it could be sold to third parties who can then use your information any way they want. That doesn’t even get into what could happen if a hacker gains access to the site and what they could do with your information.
That’s a big deal if you provide your financial information to a website, but what if you don’t? Someone can still learn a lot about you by piecing together seemingly benign information about your life. For example, with your name, hometown, and marital status, a hacker could start piecing together ideas of what your password might be.
Do you remember that huge Facebook data breech that was in the news recently? It enabled a third party, Cambridge Analytica, to harvest user data even though users didn’t know their data was being harvested in that way. On a platform like Facebook where people share a lot of personal information about themselves, it’s a big deal.
Well, other websites want you to know what they’re doing to protect your data. Even websites that don’t actually collect data from you are creating privacy policies to share the fact that they aren’t in an effort to gain the trust of their visitors.