Any good web site has a certain amount of interactivity which
causes visitors to need to enter data of one sort or another.
Sometimes this is just a name or gender, and sometimes it is a
full array of personal information. Some web sites even ask for
social security numbers, addresses or, in the case of medical
sites, highly personal data that would not normally be told even
to one's closest friends.
Of course, the most coveted data is an email address. This is
because the email address allows the visitor to be contacted
over and over again in the future. This, in turn, improves the
odds that something might actually be purchased (assuming the
site has something for sale) or that the message is read and
In order for a webmaster and company to be completely ethical,
the uses of this information need to be clearly spelled out in
well designed web sites which ask for any kind of personal data
should include one. This is not a legal requirement, it is
simply common courtesy. You are asking for something, and you
should disclose how that is going to be used and protected (if
necessary). This allows people to make informed decisions about
what they want to tell you.
include the following.
Email usage - If you are asking for an email address, then you
need to tell your visitors exactly what you plan on doing with
it. For example, on our web site we ask for an email address for
guestbooks, feedback and joining a mailing list. In the first
two instances, we do not use the email address for anything
except a thank you and never send anything else, so this is
emails if a mailing list is joined, but we don't give those
email addresses to anyone. This is also clearly stated.
completely and fully what they are used for an how long they
persist (remain before they are deleted). The press has made a
big deal about cookies, and because of that people tend to have
very negative opinions. This makes it very important to explain
exactly why you are using them.
Advertiser issues - If you have banners or other advertisements
on your web site, include a section which explains exactly what
privacy issues this might bring up. You might just say you
display banner ads, and cookies may or may not be associated
with those ads. You might also indicate whether or not a web bug
is included with the ad (a web bug is a 1X1 pixel graphic used
to track the effectiveness of an advertisement). You can get
this information from the advertiser or agency (such as
Linkshare or ClickXchange). You can also include the URL of
You say you don't know this information? Or perhaps your site is
located on a free host such as GeoCities? My recommendation is
to find out and document your findings in your own privacy
policy. Why? Because at the very least you need to know and it
will increase your credibility with your visitors to include the
Special relationships - If you've got some co-branding
relationships then by all means include a description in your
as Atomz as well as resources such as Coolboard and Hitbox.
Basically, if you use tools which are hosted on another site,
This is very important to understand, as all of these tools,
most of which are free, collect statistics of one sort or
another. These statistics are sold to advertisers. While it may
not be very important to your visitors, by including the
information, or at least links for additional information, you
are increasing your credibility.
Server logging - It's safe to assume that your host logs
everything about your visitors and it's wise to at least include
a sentence which states this rather obvious fact. If you use
server logs for anything, you may also include those uses as
Contact information - This is critical. Always include a way for
your visitors to send you an email if they have questions about
inquiries (I have never received one), and including the contact
data allows visitors to get any odd questions answered.
Other information - You may ask for other things from your
visitors. Be sure and spell out in complete detail exactly why
you need that information and what it will be used for. In
addition, be completely open about specifying if that
information will be shared with others. Anything else - The key
thing to remember is full disclosure. Tell your visitors
out exactly how you use any data that you get from your
visitors. This includes information entered directly by them
such as email addresses, as well as things that are merely
inferred, such as ad tracking and cookie usage. By doing this,
you will gain your visitors trust and improve your credibility.
About the author:
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets.
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