Your Responsibility in Operating a Privacy-Focused Website

Discover your business’s responsibility in operating a privacy-focused website. Learn practical steps to protect user data and comply with privacy laws.

Continued Success

Kyle Van Deusen

OGAL Web Design owner and WordPress educator helping businesses succeed with design, development, and marketing since 2003.

Filed Under: Continued Success

Online privacy has become a crucial concern for both businesses and consumers. As more and more interactions move online, protecting personal information has never been more important. For business owners, understanding the implications of online privacy is essential. It’s not just about complying with laws; it’s about building trust with your customers and protecting your brand’s reputation.

Many common website features can impact privacy in ways you might not even realize. From contact forms to analytics tools, these elements can collect and share personal information. In this article, we’ll discuss these features and how they affect privacy, helping you make informed decisions about what to include on your website.

Our goal is to explore why privacy matters for your business and provide practical steps you can take to ensure your website respects and protects user privacy. By grasping these basic privacy concepts and implementing the recommended practices, you can create a safer and more trustworthy online experience for your visitors.

The State of Internet Privacy

You may have not given it a lot of thought, but by having a website for your business, you play a role in the protecting your customer’s and prospects privacy.

With the increasing amount of data being collected and shared online, it’s important to have an understanding of the basics of internet privacy and to take practical steps to protect your customers’ information.

Let’s explore what Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is, why it’s important to handle with care, and how you’re liable for complying with privacy laws from across the globe.

What is PII?

Personally Identifiable Information, or PII, refers to any data that can be used to identify a specific individual. This includes things like name, email address, phone number, IP address, physical address, and payment information. In simple terms, PII is any piece of information that can trace back to singular person, making it valuable and sensitive.

Your Role in Protecting PII

Handling PII requires intentional and proactive care. Misuse or mishandling of this data can lead to significant consequences for both individuals and businesses.

For individuals, exposure of their personal data can result in identity theft, financial loss, and privacy invasions.

For businesses, failing to protect PII can lead to legal repercussions, loss of customer trust, and damage to the company’s reputation.

Ensuring the privacy and security of PII is not just a legal obligation — but a fundamental aspect of maintaining a trustworthy relationship with your customers.

Laws Regulation Collection of PII

Various laws and regulations have been enacted to govern the collection, storage, and use of PII.

In the United States, regulations such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) set stringent guidelines for how businesses must handle personal information. At this point, nearly every State has passed or proposed a privacy related bill.

Internationally, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union is one of the most comprehensive privacy laws, affecting any business that collects data from EU citizens.

A common misconception among business owners is that they do not have to comply if they are not physically located in the jurisdictions of these laws — but the majority of these laws are written to protect the citizens of these areas. This means if your website is accessible to people where these laws are in effect (like California or Europe), then you are required to comply.

Common Website Elements that Affect Privacy

When building or managing a website, it’s easy to overlook how certain features can impact the privacy of your visitors. Below are some common elements that may collect Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and tips on how to handle them in a privacy-conscious manner.

Email Newsletter Subscription Forms

Email subscription forms are a popular way to keep in touch with your customers and prospects. They typically collect PII such as names and email addresses to send newsletters and updates.

It’s unlikely that you could avoid collecting PII entirely, but here are a few tips for reducing the amount of information you collect, maintain trust with your visitors, and comply with regulations:

  • Only ask for the information you truly need. If you can get by with just an email address, leave it at that.
  • Make sure you’re using a reputable email marketing service that complies with privacy laws.
  • Always get explicit consent from users before adding them to your email list.
  • Consider using a double opt-in method to confirm the subscription.

Contact Forms

Contact forms are crucial for customer communication and usually collect PII such as names, email addresses, and phone numbers.

To protect user information while facilitating communication, follow these tips:

  • Only collect the minimum necessary information to respond to inquiries.
  • Ensure that the collected data is stored securely and only accessible to authorized personnel.
  • Regularly review and delete unnecessary data to minimize the risk of breaches.

eCommerce Forms

eCommerce forms are essential for processing orders. They collect a variety of PII such as names, billing and shipping addresses, email addresses, payment information, and phone numbers.

While it’s necessary to collect some PII to complete transactions, here are a few tips to minimize the information collected and enhance privacy:

  • Collect only the information necessary to complete the transaction.
  • Ensure your payment processor is PCI compliant and follows best practices for data security.
  • Avoid using collected email addresses for marketing purposes unless you have explicit consent from the customer.


Analytics tools like Google Analytics are used to track and analyze website traffic. However, they can collect a significant amount of PII, such as IP addresses and user interaction data, which may be shared with third parties.

To protect user privacy without losing access to valuable insights, consider the following tips:

  • Consider using privacy-focused analytics tools such as Fathom Analytics, which does not share data with third parties.
  • Anonymize IP addresses where possible to reduce the amount of identifiable data collected.
  • Clearly inform visitors about the use of analytics tools and obtain their consent where required.

Advertising and Remarketing

Advertising and remarketing tools (like a Facebook Pixel) track user behavior to serve targeted ads, collecting PII such as IP addresses and interaction data.

Here are some tips to use these tools responsibly and respect user privacy:

  • Use a limited number of advertising platforms to minimize data sharing.
  • Provide a clear opt-out mechanism for users who do not wish to be tracked.
  • Implement consent management solutions to allow users to control their data preferences.

Social Media and Video Embeds

Embedding social media posts or videos can enhance user experience but also introduces third-party tracking that collects PII such as IP addresses and interaction data.

To minimize privacy risks, consider these tips:

  • Instead of embedding content directly, use screenshots or links to the original posts.
  • Utilize privacy-enhanced modes for YouTube videos and similar features for other platforms.
  • Inform users about the potential data sharing that occurs with embedded content and get their consent.

Calendar Booking Embeds

Calendar booking tools collect PII to schedule appointments and meetings, such as names, email addresses, and phone numbers.

To use these tools while protecting user privacy, consider the following tips:

  • Choose calendar booking services that prioritize user privacy and have transparent data policies.
  • Link to booking pages instead of embedding them to reduce direct data collection on your site.
  • Ensure that users are aware of how their data will be used and obtain their consent.

Map Embeds and Font Loading Scripts

Embedding maps and loading external fonts can inadvertently share user data with third-party services (like Google), such as IP addresses.

To reduce privacy risks associated with these features, here are some tips:

  • Use static images of maps instead of live embeds where possible.
  • Host fonts locally to avoid sharing data with external servers.
  • Provide clear information about data sharing and seek user consent.

By understanding and addressing these common elements, you can significantly enhance the privacy of your website and protect your users’ sensitive information.

Practical Steps to Protect Privacy

Protecting the privacy of your website visitors is crucial for maintaining trust and complying with various privacy laws. Here are some practical steps you can take to ensure your website is as privacy-friendly as possible.

Conduct a Privacy Audit

Start by identifying which features on your website collect Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Review your privacy policy to ensure it accurately reflects your data collection practices. Regular audits can help you stay on top of any new features that may be introduced and their implications for privacy.

Evaluate the Necessity of Each Feature

Once you’ve identified the features that collect PII, assess whether each one is truly essential to your business. Ask yourself if the data collected is necessary for achieving your business goals. If a feature is not providing significant value or can be replaced with a less intrusive alternative, consider removing it. Simplifying your website can often enhance user experience while improving privacy.

Implement Privacy-Friendly Alternatives

For each feature that collects PII, look for privacy-friendly tools and practices to minimize data collection and sharing. For example, use analytics tools that prioritize user privacy, or choose email marketing services that comply with the latest privacy laws. By selecting tools that respect user privacy, you can maintain functionality while protecting your visitors’ information.

Ensure Transparency and Compliance

Transparency is key to maintaining trust with your customers. Clearly explain what information you collect, how you use it, and with whom it may be shared. Use tools like Termageddon to keep your privacy policies up to date as laws and regulations change. Being transparent about your data collection practices not only builds trust but also helps ensure you remain compliant with privacy laws.

By taking these practical steps, you can significantly improve the privacy of your website, protect your users’ sensitive information, and build a trustworthy online presence. Implementing these practices demonstrates your commitment to privacy and can help you navigate the complex landscape of online privacy laws.

Your Path to a Privacy-Focused Website

We’ve covered a lot of ground in understanding the importance of internet privacy and how it impacts your business. Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve learned:

  • Understanding PII: Personally Identifiable Information (PII) includes any data that can identify an individual, such as names, email addresses, IP addresses, and payment information. It’s crucial to handle this data with care to protect your customers and comply with privacy laws.
  • Your Role in Protecting PII: As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to safeguard the PII of your customers. Mishandling this data can lead to severe consequences, including legal issues, loss of customer trust, and damage to your business’s reputation.
  • Laws and Regulations: Privacy laws like GDPR, CCPA, and others are designed to protect individuals’ data. These laws apply not only to businesses operating within specific regions but also to those collecting data from residents of those areas. Compliance is essential, regardless of your business’s location.
  • Common Website Elements Affecting Privacy: Many website features, such as email newsletter forms, eCommerce forms, analytics tools, and social media embeds, collect PII. It’s important to evaluate these features, minimize the data collected, and adopt privacy-friendly alternatives when possible.
  • Practical Steps to Protect Privacy: Conduct regular privacy audits, evaluate the necessity of data-collecting features, implement privacy-friendly tools, and ensure transparency with your customers. These steps will help you maintain a privacy-focused website.

At OGAL Web Design, we understand the complexities of building and maintaining a privacy-focused website and are dedicated to helping you navigate these challenges and implement best practices for protecting your customers’ data. Whether you need a privacy audit, assistance with compliance, or advice on privacy-friendly tools, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

Let’s work together to create a secure and trustworthy online experience for your customers. If you think we can help, reach out to us to help your business stay ahead of the privacy curve.

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