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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont
Data Privacy Planning for Small Businesses
January 28, 2014

Marlborough, MA - Whether your small business sells goods and services online, or you’re simply using your website to market to your customers, Better Business Bureau advises that having a quality website privacy policy can build consumer trust and distinguish your business in a crowded online marketplace.

Some federal and state/provincial laws apply to privacy policies for websites that collect and share consumer data, including data collected passively using cookies. There are also limits on how a business can collect sensitive data, such as personal information from children under 13, protected health information, or information collected to provide certain financial products or services (e.g., loans, investment advice, insurance) to consumers.

Whether or not it’s legally required for your business, it’s a good idea to develop and maintain a comprehensive privacy policy. Your customers have a right to know what privacy protections they can expect when they interact with your business online.

Even if you’re not processing sales transactions on your site, you may be collecting your visitors’ personal data to generate leads, make appointments, manage newsletter subscriptions, or to share with advertisers. You’re probably using web analytics to gather data to optimize your website’s performance.

If you don’t have a privacy policy in place, or your current policy doesn’t accurately reflect your data privacy practices, BBB has created an easy-to-follow guideline for the development and maintenance of a privacy policy. It’s available online for free at bbb.org, along with BBB’s “Data Security – Made Simpler” and other tools for businesses.

Along with information on how to collect, safeguard, store and dispose of customer data, BBB also advises on how to create a culture of privacy in your company, instilling and promoting privacy as a core value. “Safeguard privacy” is one of BBB’s eight “Standards for Trust.” BBB Accredited businesses must pledge to adhere to the “Standards for Trust,” but all businesses can use them to define a corporate culture that advances trust in the marketplace.

The new “Data Privacy Planning” guideline also helps businesses plan for growth, and addresses special circumstances when bricks-and-mortar businesses go online, when domestic businesses become international, or when any business makes the leap to mobile.

For more business tips you can trust, visit bbb.org.

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses and brands they can trust. In 2013, consumers turned to BBB 131 million times for Business Reviews on more than 6.5 million businesses, all available for free at bbb.org.  The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Mexico and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.

Paula Fleming is VP of Communications & Marketing for Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern MA, ME, RI & VT.  Find Paula on Google+.

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