Privacy policies and terms and conditions are legal documents you may need to include when setting up a website or app. They are vital if you handle user data or allow for account creation.
- Terms and conditions: A broad agreement laying out the terms — payment, conduct, or otherwise — by which the user and website owner will conduct their relationship.
Privacy Policies Explained
Privacy policies are legal documents that inform users about how their personal data is handled and what rights they can exercise over their data, such as the right to data deletion. They will typically contain details about the type of personal information collected, who it’s shared with, and how it’s stored.
- Is a legal document that helps businesses comply with privacy laws and consumer protection laws
- Discloses the ways the user’s personal data will be collected, managed, and used
- Explains for what purpose that data will be collected
- Reminds the user of their data privacy rights to consent and access of their data
- Discloses whether or not data will be sold to third parties (which must be done with consent)
Privacy policies are required by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA), three major data privacy regulations.
Terms and Conditions Explained
Terms and conditions agreements are not typically legally required; neither the GDPR nor the CCPA requires websites to include terms and conditions.
Nevertheless, terms and conditions are essential for your website or app, setting expectations for the service to be received and how users must conduct themselves.
They can also help to limit your legal liability and protect your copyright rights, which are protected by law.
Think of terms and conditions as a general set of bylaws for your website or app that:
- Are directly enforced by website owners rather than legally binding and should be agreed upon before user registration is complete
- Are a broad agreement about the service offered and expectations for the user
- May include terms of payment, activity, and conduct
- Include penalties for failing to abide by the terms (such as suspension or fees)
- Can limit legal liability if users choose to contest a website owner’s action
- May include rules about your intellectual property (copyright and trademarks) which CAN be legally enforced
Privacy Policies vs. Terms and Conditions
Privacy policies outline how you interact with user data, and terms and conditions outline the rules for using your site.
There is some overlap between privacy policies and terms and conditions agreements, but the main differences can essentially be broken down this way:
|Terms and Conditions
|Required by law
|Not required by law but set expectations of liability
|Enforced by law (fines or restrictions to the website in the event of a breach of data privacy)
|Directly enforced by the business owner (by imposing suspensions, restrictions, or fees onto users for breach of terms)
|Written to protect the privacy of the user
|Written to protect the rights of the business, as well as the environment of the business (i.e. terms banning hate speech or harassment of users)
|Explain the user’s data privacy rights and how their data will be collected and used
|Explain owner’s copyright terms, fair use, and general intellectual property rights
|Lay out how to access and delete your personal data within your rights
|Lay out how to cancel or pause your account or subscription
|Include any information about international data transfers
|May include terms about international payments and shipments based on the business’s capability
|Are an agreement allowing the website or app to collect, manage, and use data in the ways outlined in the policy
|Are a set of ground rules for conduct and expectations for service on the website or app as a whole
Privacy Policies Protect the User; Terms and Conditions Protect the Website
It also informs them of their rights under GDPR, CCPA, CalOPPA, and more. This information is something that users can hold up as proof of a breach of their rights in the event their data is unlawfully used.
In contrast, terms and conditions are meant to protect a website or app’s owner.
They limit your liability by explaining what should be expected from the service and how users should conduct themselves.
Additionally, terms and conditions help keep the community aspect of a site or app safe and amiable with rules for community interactions. And lastly, they express the copyright rights that the business owner might hold and how their copyright can and can’t be used.
Privacy Policies Are Required to Comply With Privacy Laws; Terms and Conditions Are Not
Terms and conditions, on the other hand, are not mandatory under applicable laws. They enable websites and apps to limit their liability and enforce their own terms for users. They can also restate the owner’s copyright and intellectual property rights, which are protected by law.
Privacy Policies Disclose the Way Data Is Used; Terms and Conditions Dictate Services and Conduct
Additionally, it goes over any possibility of that data being transferred to a domestic third party or overseas.
Terms and conditions outline what the users can expect from a website or app’s service and what is expected of the user. For example, there may be rules related to payment, community, copyright, and liability terms.
In addition, they set the rules for the owner and the user and how the relationship between the two should be conducted.
Finally, these agreements will also include a disclosure of penalties for failing to adhere to the terms and conditions.
Do You Need Both?
But if only one of them is legally required, are both truly necessary?
There may be situations where you need one more than the other and some cases in which both are equally required.
- Your website/app or user base falls under the jurisdiction of a regional data privacy law (or you service users in that region)
- You intend to have users interact with your website or app
- Your website/app collects and uses personal data from users
- Your website/app will transfer data to third parties, especially overseas
When You Need a Terms and Conditions
While not required by law, terms and conditions are still one of the first things you should establish on your website. You need to generate terms and conditions when:
- You plan to have users sign up for and interact with your website/app
- You have an online shop or provide a subscription service
- You have a community element to your website/app
- You have guidelines that you want your users to abide by
- You want to limit liability to your website or app, or business
- You have intellectual property, such as copyright, that you want to protect
When You Need Both
- You plan to have users sign up for a membership or service
- You want to stay compliant and limit your legal liability
- You want to maintain good, transparent relationships with your users
- You want to add an air of credibility and trustworthiness to your site
- You have a subscription service that will save user’s payment data
Fortunately, this one is easy.
It seems as though combining both agreements into one will be easier, both for you and for the users. But combining privacy policies with terms and conditions can often lead to a long, complicated document that is difficult to read.
Privacy policies require numerous clauses unique to them, and when combined with terms and conditions, the agreement can be overwhelming for readers.
Instead, consider drafting separate documents and linking them together.
Just like it’s essential to protect the privacy of the user, it’s also important to protect your intellectual property and limit your legal liability when it comes to your business.