Author Presence, Tips & Tricks

Authors and Privacy Policy

Lately, every time you visit a site, you’re inundated with pop-ups and notifications about cookies and such. While it seems new, especially in the light of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the requirements to have a privacy policy stretch back far.

The first major “win” for the consumer came with the CAN-SPAM law. This requires newsletters to have a physical address (it can be a PO Box or a street address) on them. Failure to comply can cause a nasty fee. (https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business)

As the internet has evolved, so to have the protections afforded visitors, and as a business, you need to comply. (We’ll get back to the “you are a business” near the bottom.)

Privacy policies come with certain expectations. They must disclose the information the website collects.

If you have a newsletter, have an online store, do giveaways, have contact forms, or anything where you collect “individual” information or require people to log in to comment, you need a privacy policy.

You must detail what you do with the information. Do you use the information to send out newsletters, respond to their emails, mail them items?

Do you share the information you collect? The short answer here is no. As a writer/author, you should NEVER share your newsletter subscriber list or spam people who email you with your newsletter unless they know (like a newsletter builder) that you will add them to the list or share their information. You don’t enjoy getting spam calls and phishing emails; don’t do this to your readers by sharing their information.

3rd-party links—if you’re sending a visitor to any website that isn’t a part of yours, you need to be forthright that you’re not responsible for the content on those websites. This can be links to Amazon, other blogs, other authors, or even to social media.

If you use affiliate links, like Amazon’s affiliate links (https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/), then you must disclose that. Not only was this a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) law—2008/2009 are some of the earliest examples of rules, laws, and guidelines https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2009/10/ftc-publishes-final-guides-governing-endorsements-testimonials—but the TOS of Amazon state that you must disclose yourself as an Amazon Affiliate (https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/help/operating/agreement).

What if I’m not in the USA?

It’s called the practice of the least common denominator. Similar to the GDPR, which is European-based, if you have customers, subscribers, or any chance someone from a country outside of your own could click on a link or sign up for something on your newsletter, you must meet minimum guidelines.

I’m not a business. Writing is a hobby.

If you make any form of royalty or payment from your books, you are no longer in the realm of hobbies but in the realm of professional/business. If you’re collecting people’s information via a sign-up form, contact form, you’re a business. You’re a public entity that must do the minimum to protect anyone who signs up/follows you/your website/your social media.

If you don’t want the responsibility to handle other’s information, then don’t collect information to respond, reply, or engage others. Do not use affiliate links, do not house giveaways, do not send newsletters. But doesn’t a 30-second crafted page save you a lot of hassle?

Crafting a Privacy Policy

I crafted mine the hard way. I did a lot of Googling about what needed to go into mine and why they needed these parts.

If you don’t feel like going the route I did, try this website—https://www.freeprivacypolicy.com/

Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe for more WwD content.

This post was edited/proofed by ProWritingAid.

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