On March 7, Privacy International held the third annual U.S. Big Brother awards to recognize the greatest enemies (and champions) of privacy. Among those honored for their injurious actions were the FBI’s Carnivore privacy-eating snooper program, which was given the Most Invasive Proposal award, and ChoicePoint, a company that was hailed as the Greatest Corporate Invader for “massive selling of records, accurate and inaccurate to cops, direct marketers, and election officials.”

These organizations, unfortunately, are just a sample of the numbers of companies and individuals that make it their business to know yours. When you consider the amount of trust that your customers put in your company to protect their personal information, concerning yourself with the capturing and selling of the private information entered at your Web sites should be a top priority. Look at your present privacy policy and ask yourself: Does it measure up to our customers’ expectations?

To help you either shore up your present privacy guidelines or create a policy for the first time, we’re offering a privacy policy template based on TechRepublic’s own privacy policy. While your own site may not employ the same technology and features as TechRepublic, this document can serve as an example.

Learn more about privacy standards
Want to learn more about privacy policies?

Start with TRUSTe, a nonprofit organization that encourages “trust and confidence in the Internet by promoting the use of fair information practices.” The site offers a privacy policy wizard and a fill-in-the-blank privacy policy, both of which are continually updated, as are all of TRUSTe’s policies and procedures.

In addition to help and guidelines for creating a privacy statement, the company offers membership in its TRUSTe program. The TRUSTe privacy seal, or “trustmark,” is an online branded seal that is awarded to sites adhering to the established privacy principles of disclosure, choice, access, and security as set forth by TRUSTe. To qualify to display the trustmark on your site, you must apply through the company’s Web site.

Another source for testing the mettle of your privacy policy is the BBBOnline, a subsidiary of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, whose mission is to “promote trust and confidence on the Internet” through its Reliability and Privacy Seal Programs. Companies may display those seals on their site once they have been evaluated and it has been confirmed that they meet the program requirements, which can be summed up by BBBOnline’s basic privacy principle: “Say what you do, do what you say, and have it verified.”
Do you have a privacy policy you’d like to share with other TechRepublic members? Send us your policy, and we may use it on the site—with any statements or names that might violate your company’s privacy stripped out, of course.