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Do I Need a Privacy Policy If I'm Using Google Analytics?

Last week during a presentation with one of our clients, a wonderful question arose: "Do I need a privacy policy on my website if I'm using Google Analytics?" So, today on the blog, we're going to tackle this inquiry and discuss this important piece of your website. Google Analytics is one of Google's most popular products, and is one that we at VDW implement on our clients' sites on a regular basis.  The reason Google Analytics has been such a popular tool for businesses is because it uncovers important information that can aid in the decision-making processes for online marketing and website updates. To name only a few features, Google Analytics lets us take a look at how many people are coming to our website, what kinds of conversions they are making on our site, and it can even tell us demographic information about our visitors. A lot of us are making great use of this information... but did you know that many businesses are technically doing it illegally? That is because some businesses are neglecting or forgetting to include a privacy policy on their site while they are using Google Analytics. Tucked into the "fine print" of the Terms of Service, we'll find that Google does indeed require that a privacy policy be included in order to use their product. It states:
"7. PRIVACY. You will not (and will not allow any third party to) use the Service to track or collect personally identifiable information of Internet users, nor will You (or will You allow any third party to) associate any data gathered from Your website(s) (or such third parties’ website(s)) with any personally identifying information from any source as part of Your use (or such third parties’ use) of the Service. You will have and abide by an appropriate privacy policy and will comply with all applicable laws relating to the collection of information from visitors to Your websites. You must post a privacy policy and that policy must provide notice of your use of a cookie that collects anonymous traffic data."
Catch that last sentence? "You must post a privacy policy and that policy must provide notice of your use of a cookie that collects anonymous traffic data." It's not optional! Of course, most people will admit that they are guilty of clicking that enticing "I agree" checkbox on a User Agreement before without sifting through what feels like the endless amount of text they are supposed to read. So many users of Google Analytics do not realize that they need to include a privacy policy on their website and unintentionally forego one. However, this is an important thing for all Google Analytics users to investigate and consider as non-compliance could potentially result in account suspension or other penalties from Google -- and possibly even a lawsuit! If you're using Google Analytics (or any of these Google products), check to be sure that you have a Privacy Policy included on your site. Most often, you'll find privacy policies as small, subtle links in the footer of a website. If you need assistance in creating a privacy policy, or adding one to your website, contact us.