Privacy and Disclosure Policies: Everything You Need to Know


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Privacy and Disclosure Policies: All the rules that bloggers need to know | Oh, She Blogs!

If you’re starting a new blog you’re probably most looking forward to putting pen to paper putting fingers to keyboard and writing your first post. That’s the best part of blogging, right? Sharing your thoughts and maybe even getting paid to do so!

However, before you start the fun stuff, there are a couple of housekeeping items that you need to take care of immediately. One of the first pages on your blog should be an About Page, and we’ve already talked about how to set up a successful About Page since that’s the page that’s literally going to be your introduction to your readers.

If you plan on making money from your blog, be it through affiliate marketing, advertising, or any of the other ways that bloggers make money, then the second and third pages on your site should be your privacy and disclosure policies.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Read on for all of the details.

What You Need to Know About Privacy and Disclosure Policies

Privacy Policies

If you are planning on collecting any sort of data from your readers, such as their email addresses so you can send them a newsletter, then you need to have a Privacy Policy on your site.

Some ad networks, such as Google AdSense, REQUIRE a Privacy Policy, which should tell you how important this is.

A Privacy Policy basically tells your readers how you collect data and reassures them that you aren’t going to turn around and spam them or sell their information to a third party.

According to Google, the following information is required to be in your Privacy Policy by Adsense:

  • Third party vendors, including Google, use cookies to serve ads based on a user’s prior visits to your website.
  • Google’s use of the DoubleClick cookie enables it and its partners to serve ads to your users based on their visit to your sites and/or other sites on the Internet.
  • Users may opt out of the use of the DoubleClick cookie for interest-based advertising by visiting Ads Settings. (Alternatively, you can direct users to opt out of a third-party vendor’s use of cookies for interest based advertising by visiting aboutads.info.)

I know – that basically just looks like a wall of text. Thankfully you don’t have to do this on your own.

You could hire a lawyer to write a Privacy Policy for you if you wanted, but that would probably take a lot of time and money. Luckily there are quite a few different companies that will prepare a free Privacy Policy for you. A quick Google search will bring up plenty of options.

The privacy policy I use for this site was created at PrivacyPolicyOnline.com. It took approximately 30 seconds to set up. After you fill out the brief form, click on the “Generate HTML” button, grab the code and enter it in a new PAGE on your blog. Just like that you’ll be done and on Google’s good terms!

 

Disclosure Policies

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that all bloggers disclose when they are getting paid for posts and/or receive free products that they are reviewing. They require disclosures to help build a level of transparency between bloggers and readers. Not disclosing actions like being paid for posts or using affiliate links is considered deceptive. While the bloggers themselves didn’t get into trouble, the FTC recently went after Lord & Taylor for a social media campaign they sanctioned and paid for but for which they didn’t require any influencers to disclose their partnership. Check out what the FTC has to say about that.

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If you are looking for some really exciting reading, I recommend taking some time to read the entire FTC Disclosures Guide. It’s scintillating, I assure you. Alternatively, you could check out one of my favorite websites, Bloggy Law, for the Cliff’s Notes version.

If you plan on making any money from your blog – through sponsored posts, affiliate links or anything else – or if you plan on reviewing any type of free products and you live in the United States then you need to have a Disclosure Policy Page on your blog. Period.

Whereas the Privacy Policy is pretty staid, I decided to have a bit more fun with the Disclosure Policy. If you’re not sure about what to put in a Disclosure Policy, however, have no fear! There’s an app a website for that! Head over to DisclosurePolicy.org and they’ll put one together for you quickly. I used this policy as the base when writing mine. Our full disclosure policy is fairly lengthy and provides more in-depth information about things like our use of affiliate links and how our opinions can’t be bought.

How to Add a Disclosure Policy to the Top of Your Blog Posts

You are required by law to post a disclosure at the top of every sponsored blog post (including when items are exchanged for a review or when affiliate links are used), but assuming you don’t want to append your full disclosure to each post then your best bet is to write a short sentence and include a link to your full disclosure policy.

I use so many affiliate links that I find it easiest to include a basic affiliate disclosure at the top of every single post I write.

This is, more or less, the one I use:

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something. Please check out our disclosure policy for more details.

As for adding a disclosure to the top of every blog post, I use the PRyC WP: Add custom content to post and page (top/bottom) plugin. This plugin has worked well for me and it’s free, but there are also a few other comparable options out there if this one doesn’t work for you. Those of you using Genesis themes may be able to add the disclosure really easily using Genesis hooks, or  those of you that are particularly tech-savvy could possibly edit your site code to hard wire this into every post. (Please don’t do this last option unless you really know what you’re doing!)

 

Amazon Associates Disclosure

If you are part of the Amazon Associates program, you need to have another very specific disclosure on your blog. The Amazon Associates Operating Agreement is pretty lengthy and includes this bit of text:

10. Identifying Yourself as an Associate

You will not issue any press release or make any other public communication with respect to this Operating Agreement, your use of the Content, or your participation in the Program. You will not misrepresent or embellish the relationship between us and you (including by expressing or implying that we support, sponsor, endorse, or contribute to any charity or other cause), or express or imply any relationship or affiliation between us and you or any other person or entity except as expressly permitted by this Operating Agreement. You must, however, clearly state the following on your site or any other location where Amazon may authorize your display of Content: “[Insert your name] is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to [insert the applicable site name (amazon.com)].”

They don’t really go out of their way to make it obvious, but per the operating agreement, all Amazon Associates must include the following verbiage on their websites:

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“[Insert your name] is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to [insert the applicable site name (amazon.com)].”

As your relationship with Amazon must be “clearly” stated, most people recommend adding this blurb to the sidebar of your site. You can create a text widget and then copy and paste the blurb above into it, updating the information to reflect your site.

While this might seem like a lot of disclosing, Amazon can kick bloggers out of their program for not playing by their rules, so if you aren’t yet using their disclosure please add it to your site ASAP!

 

There you have it. I know privacy and disclosure policies are pretty much as boring as it gets, but they’re absolutely necessary. Put them up when you’re just starting out and then forget about them… but don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back every once in a while because it’s pretty rad that you’re not deceiving your readers and are committed to blogging transparency. 😉

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Lisa Koivu

Founder at Oh, She Blogs!
Lisa Koivu is the founder of Oh, She Blogs! A seven year blogging veteran, Lisa can also be found posting shopping deals and steals at ShopGirlDaily.com . In her free time (ha!) she is also a freelance writer who has written for About.com and U.S. News.
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