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Several common features may be found in the average privacy notice. First, the website may explain what information it collects, and what rights a user has to stem that flow of collection. It’s possible the user has no rights, but often subscribing or becoming a user on a particular site allows people to opt-out of giving certain kinds of information. For instance a newsletter site might want people to receive in their mail other types of newsletters, or an online store thinks a customer’s mailbox is the perfect place for daily advertisements. Since this can annoy some customers, some customers may be able to, when agreeing to a privacy notice, check or uncheck boxes that will free them from a certain amount of spam or correspondence from additional businesses.
Of course, the opt-out feature is not always available, and a privacy notice typically must state that a company plans to share a user’s information elsewhere. A common way of saying this is that information “will be shared with our affiliates,” which could mean anybody, since affiliates have affiliates too. One way of determining how greatly this invades privacy is to determine type of information shared. Will a company share, email or physical address, phone number, name, type of customer, or every email composed, for instance? Finding out exactly what information is routinely gathered and shared can help people determine their degree of exposure and this is usually specified in a notice.
After having read a privacy notice fairly closely, many customers figure they understand information they’ll be sharing by their use, and what information a company will not access. This might be true were it not for the fact that routinely a single sentence in a policy may completely negate security. If a company claims the right to change the policy at any time, they can, at a later point, do just that. This means what is private today, isn’t necessarily private tomorrow.
No matter how it's written or by whom, having a check off site at which users sign that they’ve agreed to the notice and to the terms and conditions of using the site makes good legal sense. It helps absolve the web owners of potential issues that might arise if the site is somehow misused, or if failure to protect privacy is alleged. Moreover, giving a comprehensive document that is easy to locate on the site, signals professionalism. Finally, allowing opt-outs on certain uses of information may actually be more satisfying to a customer base, encouraging site re-use.
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