Why using someone else’s Privacy Policy is a bad idea

Privacy Policy

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Donata Stroink-Skillrud

Co-founder and President of Termageddon

Why using someone else’s Privacy Policy is a bad idea

Copying homework and changing it up a bit so that it doesn’t look the exact same is a practice we all tried in high school. Didn’t do your English homework because you spent the entire summer doing stupid things with your friends? No problem! Find a nerd and copy her essay. All you had to do was hope that the teacher wouldn’t want to ask you any questions about the book and you were all set. The worst that could happen is you got an F in that assignment and then tried harder for the rest of the year. When it comes to Privacy Policies, change the “teacher” to the “Federal Trade Commission, aggressive lawyer or a Data Protection Authority” and the “F” to “millions of dollars in fines” and, all of a sudden, you’re not wanting to roll the dice anymore. We sometimes get the question, “why can’t I just copy someone else’s Privacy Policy?” and, here’s the answer.

First, the text of the Privacy Policy that you are copying may not be a good fit for your business. For example, let’s say that you are taking the text from one of your competitors who are in the same industry as you. Your competitor may do business differently than you. For example, the competitor may collect different types of information on their website or may share it with different parties than you do. It would be awkward if a client no longer wants to give you their information since your Privacy Policy says that you sell it to advertisers if you do no such thing. Yes, you could spend some time editing their Privacy Policy to try and fit your business, but is your time best spent trying to Frankenstein some semblance of a Privacy Policy or growing your business? If the embarrassment factor isn’t enough, the Federal Trade Commission’s guidance states that your Privacy Policy must be accurate to your actual practices in order to be compliant with laws. 

Next, the text of the Privacy Policy may have some mistakes or poor writing that makes the policy confusing for your users. There’s a reason why no one copied the homework from the kid who got consistent F’s in the class – their homework just was not worth copying. Some Privacy Policies are written the same way – they are confusing, unnecessarily wordy or just plain bad. The fact is, unless you’re a lawyer, you may not be able to tell the difference between the good and the bad. There’s plenty of lawsuits out there to show that bad writing can mean a large loss, don’t let this happen to you.

Third, the text of the Privacy Policy may have been written years ago and not updated to fit the most current laws out there. This means that you could possibly be out of compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation the moment you post the text of the Privacy Policy that you copied. Also, a template that you copied will not automatically update when the law changes either and there are a lot of proposed bills that would change how your Privacy Policy is written. This means that you will have to keep track of all of the new laws, interpret what they mean and write updates for your Privacy Policy yourself. Again, if you’re not a lawyer, this is probably not a good idea. Plus, there are constantly new laws being passed that closely mimic GDPR’s regulations and add more of their own. 

Lastly, if you copy and paste someone else’s Privacy Policy onto your website, you are committing copyright infringement. And yes, you can get sued for that and receive heavy fines, which also makes this whole thing a bad idea.

We hope that now you can see why copying and pasting someone else’s Privacy Policy is a bad idea. It’s much cheaper and more convenient to generate a Privacy Policy for your website using Termageddon. We will make sure that your policies fit your business, will automatically update the policies whenever the laws change and will provide you with support in case you have any questions. Win win win!

Protect yo’ self,
Team Termageddon

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About the Author
Donata Stroink-Skillrud

Donata is the Co-founder and President of Termageddon and a licensed attorney and Certified Information Privacy Professional. She serves as the Vice-Chair of the American Bar Association's ePrivacy Committee and the Chair of the Chicago Chapter of the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

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