Privacy Policies Waste Space Now
We put privacy policies on our websites to cover things like:
- We collect X information;
- No spamming;
- Your credit card is safe;
- Your information is kept in the digital equivalent of a locked safe with a starving Doberman chained to it.
While privacy policies are needed, this information is a given now. Most people don’t care about privacy policies. Most of us just assume that if we give a company information, they’ll protect it.
The Web acts as its own check-and-balance system. If a company was to sell or leak billing information (even accidentally!), someone will find out.
Someone will announce it on a blog.
Thousands of people will see it.
And your customers’ trust will be shattered.
Should You Protect Conversations?
Of course a business website should address privacy basics: don’t spam, don’t sell information, etc.
But the old language isn’t enough anymore. It doesn’t even cover Web conversations. IMs, forum posts, blog posts, blog comments…communication that isn’t necessarily ON your website. This isn’t covered by the crusty old text most websites use.
However, they’re all part of your business’ communications. You’re not always the one communicating. But people are talking about your business, and those conversations become part of your message.
You can’t control this anymore. But you can respect this. And when you do, you give yourself a marketing advantage over your competitors by demonstrating that not only do you respect your customers’ privacy, but you respect all of their communications, too.
A New Policy: Identify the People Safeguarding Your Communications
So what should a new privacy/communications “policy” focus on? What would differentiate it from the old version?
Think of it this way. Customers assume you protect their information. Take the next step and wed privacy protection to online communication. Who do you have on LinkedIn? Twitter? Who runs your social media campaigns?
They’re already involved with customer information. So make them into listening posts.
The new policy should say something like this:
“Not only do we protect your information (and this is how)…but here’s the person who does it.”
But why link privacy on your own site to communications about your company across the entire Web? Didn’t I just say that there’s no real control of a company’s message on the Web?
Yep. But, acknowledging this and identifying a specific person who will be on guard for your customers’ privacy concerns creates a strong impression about how far you are willing to go to protect your customers.
You’re saying, “This is who takes care of privacy concerns. And since they’re on X social network, you can check in with them whenever you want.”
Your customers will think, “Wow! Talk about sticking your neck out. They must take extra precautions.”
It shows a huge dose of confidence in your product and your practices, and respect for your customers. You respect their information AND what they have to say online. You’re putting a name and a face out there for your customers to see and even call if there’s a problem.
Privacy + Social Media Respect = Communications Hub
So, to recap.
- Replace with new, two-part policy:
- Protection basics (we collect X information, this is how we use it, no spamming).
- This is the person(s) responsible for handling online communications, and how you can talk with him/her.
Last thing: take the final step and point out your new comprehensive approach to privacy in your future marketing communications.
- Customer Communications Hub
- Customer Information Policy
- Open Communications Policy
- Privacy Safeguards
(Got another idea? Leave a comment and let’s all try it on.)
“But wait!” you might think. “We don’t use social media. We don’t even like it.”
Here’s a short example. Feel free to use this yourself (just email me first).
XYZ CORP Customer Information Policy
XYZ Corp. collects this information from our customers:
- Full Name and Contact Information
- Email Address
- Credit Card Information (for purchases only)
Your information is never sold, traded or given to any other party unless needed to complete your transactions.
We’re in compliance with the California Online Privacy Protection Act (California’s privacy laws are located here if you want to review them).
Our Privacy Contact is Michael Trust, Head of Customer Communications. Michael takes care of all privacy concerns our customers have. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for any issues or questions.
Michael is also in charge of our social media conversations. So if you want to talk with him about XYZ, follow him at these accounts:
Twitter – @michaeltrustXYZ
LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/XYZCorp
Facebook – www.facebook.com/XYZCorp (our Facebook Page)
What do you think?