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Privacy policy

Bellevue, WA |

I need to make a privacy policy for my start up company. Would it be alright to copy another company's privacy policy and terms and conditions?

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Attorney answers 3


If you do use the other company's policy as a guide, make sure that you are not violating the trade secrets of the company whose policy you want to use. Perhaps you can get permission to use their policy or maybe it is the type of thing that will not be a concern for them. Here, I am not sure if you mean a privacy policy as in how you will protect customer data, or whether you mean a non-disclosure, trade secrets, and inventions agreement that employees will sign. Whichever is the case, it is common for attorneys to resort to their "form file" when they are asked to draft a policy, contract, or other document for a client, and so many of these types of documents are based on older versions. But there are always unique wrinkles that require altering a document so that it fits the particular circumstances for which it is being used. If you simply copy another policy, there may be portions that are outdated, or there may be errors or things that should be changed or adapted to your business. When working with startups I have seen policies or employment practices adopted from other employers, where they really should not have been used (and this made life more difficult than it needed to be). So, bottom line, usually there is no need to reinvent the wheel, but be wary of simply copying everything without careful consideration of whether all the terms should apply to you. Hope that helps. -Don


Assuming you are referring to a Privacy Policy that governs how you use personally identifiable information about users of a web site or service, many companies indicate that their online Privacy Policy is copyrighted, similar to a book or other written work. In that regard, verbatim plagiarism may violate another's copyright. Equally important, however, is the need to access what terms are appropriate for your business. Do you intend to sell or otherwise exploit user information such as contact details. Will you permit opt-out options? Is your business oriented toward minors or adults? All of these questions affect the terms and conditions of a privacy policy. Thus, the content of Privacy Policies will differ somewhat based on the business model of the company collecting the private information.


I agree with Donald W. Heyrich's answer, but would amplify on it. First, this is indeed an area of the law with frequent new developments, so make sure that you're looking at recent sample policies -- ideally no more than 2 years old. Second, try to look at precedents from your own state, since the laws here can vary from state to state. This way, you'll avoid including provisions that may be unenforceable in your state. Finally, try to find a few sample privacy policies, and compare them to see what key terms are common to all. These are probably the major terms that you would want to use, while other provisions may be tailored for particular companies or particular states. (Hint: This web site -- like most -- has a privacy policy you can check as well.)

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