Bare Minimum

We should aspire to more than the bare minimum when writing policy. I came across a great example of employment for freelance policy this week put out by ARC (Stockton Arts Centre) it shows a level of empathy and understanding for freelancers rarely seen in the world of policy.

We should aim to do this with all policies, I find myself reading privacy policies regularly during the working week. When someone sends me a link to their website the first thing I read is their privacy policy, and so often they are not only unreadable, and filled with jargon and legal speak, privacy policies at their best should explain: 

  • Who is collecting the data?
  • What data rights a person has?
  • What data is collected?
  • How the data is stored?
  • What the data is used for?
  • Who the data is shared with?
  • Who to contact or compalin to?
  • How long is the data kept?

The bare minimum is just going through the ICO’s privacy policy template, but if we think beyond a template we can inject personality and confidence into what we say in our policy. In the policies, we write we should include links to third-party privacy policies like Twitter don’t make your users have to research everything, be transparent.

The tone of language is important too if we read “we” instead of ‘name of organisation’ it displayed a sense of “we are in this together” rather than organisation against the reader. I am not saying this is wrong more that we need to choose to be formal or informal early on within our policy. We have a responsibility to reflect the voice of the organisations’ as policy writers.

Policies reflect the organisations or individuals they are written for, Tumblr for example used to have an interesting terms of service policy, sadly this changed in 2013 when they were bought by Yahoo. There are some lovely examples of staff handbooks out there with policy but personality too just look at Steam (Valve’s Handbook). Policies can be fun, but above all, it needs to be readable and understandable.

I am getting a bit off subject, but these are all things I consider when writing for organisations, and also questions I ask early on. As an early believer in house styles that help reflect what an organisations’ voice should sound like, it is important to be clear.

The bare minimum is never enough, sure use the ICO template above as a starting point, but we have a responsibility to go beyond this. I ask my clients lots of very awkward questions when doing a privacy policy, I think most of my clients appreciate my bluntness because it helps them understand what they want to say in the way they want to say it. A privacy policy should be part of the annual (bare minimum) risk assessments done for any organisation.

It’s important that the privacy policy doesn’t just become a tick box exercise it should be considered and reviewed regularly. We have a duty of care to the people who use our websites, instead of saying find this on the ICO website direct them to the information with a link, for example in my privacy policy I give a direct link to the individual rights page.

I just try to be clear, I am aware that my site is currently fairly anonymous, I struggle with how formal to be even as a freelancer because many of my clients are more formal than I would choose to be, but by sounding a bit more like them I am more likely to gain them as clients. And yet here I am adding a note to say I am me, a person who loves good policy. It is said “don’t dream it, be it” but when working for more formal clients taking “a jump to the left and a step to the right” is not that easy.

Anyway, I will leave this with you before it gets too long, but it is my thought for the end of the week.

Obscur references:

I am aware when the bare minimum came into my mind as a title, so did the icons for a bear and volume knob for level 1, yes I am a Spinal Tap fan, so when I want music loud I like to think I am an eleven person (even when it is likely to really only be at 4).

Oh, I should say just in case “don’t dream it, be it” and “a jump to the left and a step to the right” are both references to The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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