Understanding Privacy Policies Is a Must
Privacy policies are more than just mundane documents for legal compliance; they are a reminder that your personal and browsing data is immensely valuable and that you should treat it as such. It’s critical that you know how yours is being used in this increasingly complex digital world.
Privacy policies contain vital information that relates to your data privacy, including:
- Data collected: This tells you which types of data are collected, whether device or network identifiers or personally identifiable information (PII).
- Why data is collected: This explains why data is collected in the first place, which can tell you if a website collects more data than is necessary.
- How data is used: This part explains how they use the data collected. Is it to improve operations? Will they sell it? Will it be used for ad targeting?
- Third-party sharing: This is critical because it tells you who else has access to your data, which can potentially include advertising partners, corporate partners, and so on.
- Data security: In the third quarter of 2022 alone, almost 15 million data records were leaked in Is your data safe in the company’s hands? How exactly do they secure your data? Data breaches can result in identity theft, so it’s vital that your data remains safe.
When reading privacy policies, you should look out for red flags that may indicate that a service or website is not trustworthy with your data. If you see any of these, you should think twice about agreeing to any terms presented to you:
- Requesting excessive or contextually irrelevant information: Some websites collect more data than necessary, and often for questionable reasons. Look at the context; is the information relevant to the nature of the service? It’s valid for realty websites, for instance, to collect location data, but less so for websites that offer cooking recipes.
- Any mention of “advertising”: If a website shares your data with advertising partners, it almost certainly means a lot of other companies will get access to your data no matter how they sugarcoat it. (e.g. “We share your data to deliver personalized ads.”)
- Vague terms especially in data security: As the owner of the data, it’s your right to know how safe it is in a company’s hands, but vague data security descriptions rob you of that. Wording like, “We ensure your data security,” without providing further description of the measures in place should raise a red flag.
Taking Control of Your Data Privacy
Privacy policies demystify the complex machinery of data collection, and with their help, we can navigate the web with a better sense of control. That being said, it is ultimately our responsibility to ensure our own privacy.
Using a virtual private network or VPN is a great way to safeguard our data. They use encryption and networking technologies to make it more difficult for others on the internet – including services we use, websites we visit, and our very own internet providers – to capture our data.
Don’t be a passive consumer; be proactive when it comes to protecting your privacy.
Why am I getting emails about updated privacy policies?
Websites and services make changes to their privacy policies all the time. If you get an email from a website about updated privacy policies, it’s likely that you signed up for the website’s service previously, and they’re emailing you to let you know of the change.
What is ‘the right to be forgotten’?
The ‘right to be forgotten’ enables you to request the removal or deletion of your personal information from a service or website you previously used when there is no longer a valid reason for the service to keep it, such as if you stopped using the service.