Compact Privacy Policy: A Breakdown

Emily HaaseAlmost every web site you visit has a link to their privacy policy hidden in tiny type in the footer of their pages. But who reads them? Fortunately, your browser is ready and willing to jump in and make sure the privacy policies you’re encountering on the web meet your preferences for web interactions – but it can only do so if the web site you’re visiting has a compact privacy policy in place.
A compact privacy policy is a string of abbreviations that represent a company’s privacy policy. You incorporate this string into the headers of your web pages to communicate your privacy policy in a machine-readable format. By doing so, you enable the user’s machine to compare your policy, and thus the stated behavior of your website, to that user’s preferences.

It’s fairly obvious why a customer would want a company to use a compact privacy policy. But why would a company want to use one? The answer is simple – optimized performance. For example, let’s imagine a potential customer is visiting my web site. If that customer has her browser security settings set to high, and I haven’t implemented a compact privacy policy, all cookies will be blocked. However, if that user with the high security settings visits my site and I have a compact privacy policy in place, the cookies from my site would have been allowed, which would have enhanced my customer’s experience online, and my ability to interact with and target that customer. In fact, failure to include a compact privacy policy will prevent many users from even being able to login to a site.

As a web site provider, it’s vital to keep your compact privacy policy accurate and up to date. Plus, you have to be certain it stays in sync with your human readable privacy policy.

Generating a compact privacy is fairly easy thanks to online resources like P3P (Platform for Privacy Preferences Project) and http://www.p3pwriter.com. Here are some more P3P resources for further reading.

After using one of these online resources, you’ll get something that looks fairly unintelligible to you, but which will make perfect sense to your customer’s browser. For example, if the letters NOI appear in your policy, that means that your site does not collect identifiable information. On the other hand, if ALL appears, access is given to all identified information.

Have questions about compact privacy policy? Post them below!

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