You will want to keep an eye out for a few specific topics, but usually, privacy policies are well structured, so those topics are generally easy to find.
Let’s have a look at an example policy and navigate our way through it:
(i) Who is collecting your data?
(ii) What data is being collected?
(iii) Why is it collected?
(iv) Who is it shared with?
(v) What are your rights?
Next, check for the types of data that are being collected. You may want to check this information before interacting with a given company, in case you discover policies which you weren’t expecting. With an understanding of what types of data you will share with a given company, you will be less likely to be surprised later.
Then, look for information on how the data being collected is used. This describes why data is collected. For example, it might explain that your address is needed to ship you the goods that you have ordered online. This paragraph should cover everything a company does with your data, so as with collection, it’s a good idea to check if there is anything you don’t want your data to be used for.
Another important explanation to look out for would be one that covers data sharing. This will explain whether the company that collected the data shares it with other companies. Sometimes data sharing is necessary for providing the service. For example, to deliver goods that you ordered online, the company may share your address with the postal service, or a company may use another company’s product for data storage or processing. Usually, the other company is referred to as a “service provider,” which means that they provide a service as defined in an agreement, and they cannot use the data for any other purpose. This type of data sharing is very common and subject to specific rules.
You may also want to carefully check what data is shared with “partners” or other third parties, and why. Third parties are usually types of service providers that use data for their own purposes. For example, an advertising company may receive your data and add it to a marketing profile they’ve created about you in order to deliver you more targeted advertising on other websites. If you don’t understand the terms, you should contact the company’s privacy team.
Lastly, there should be a section on your rights and choices. Depending on the applicable laws, you may have certain rights or choices available to you. This section should identify which laws apply to you, and will explain what you can do if you are not happy with how data is collected or used.