Reader friendly privacy policies are possible

 

 

This school year has certainly been an adventure for my family on some many levels, and I am tickled every time my kids come home with a new school letter informing me of the new app/software/technology they are using. Of course, everything that comes home is received with a healthy dose of skepticism from me. I read the flyer, peruse the app website, read the privacy policy and then get mildly annoyed at the incomprehensible language on privacy policies and sometimes give up when I can’t, for the life of me, find such information.

So when my third grader came home with a teacher’s letter that stated she had been signed up for a new app in school meant to “excite and encourage kids to read” I was less than enthused. I took a deep breath and went to the website to see what this was all about. And I was pleasantly surprised.

For starters, the privacy policy link is easy to find. That makes a big difference because every little thing matters, and it makes for a much better user experience. Once I pulled up their privacy policy I began to read it.

Of course, I was bracing myself for pages and pages of legal terms and complicated policies but that was not the case here! This app has one of the most user friendly privacy policies documents that I have seen in a long time.

I was encouraged when I began to read their privacy policies. The first three paragraphs help build my confidence as a user / parent and clearly explain what the company does and what their approach to privacy is. Not wasting time, in the second paragraph, the company laid out why they take extra precautions when signing up kids for their software. They explain that because the platform is meant for children 13 and younger they need to make sure that appropriate security and privacy practices are in place. They continue and explain that they need to comply with COPPA and include a link to the COPPA website. Further, it reminds us, parents, that we need to talk with our children about online safety and to stay involved in the kid’s online activity.

I really like how easy the document is laid out, it has short and easy to read paragraphs. All the sections have a heading in bold from what they are using cookies to through IP information and other information they collect. They clearly state how the student information is stored and they clarify that they encrypt all PII whenever it is transmitted.

Most of us have legitimate concerns of how our data is transferred to an unknown party in the case of a sale, merger or bankruptcy situation and most privacy policies do not explain clearly how data is handled in these cases. However, in this case, the company clarifies that even though the data may be transferred or sold they will notify you about this change before transferring any information and states that you may decide to continue or discontinue the service at that time. They do note that it is our own responsibility to check back regularly in case the privacy policies change (and that is fair) but they also state that if any material changes to the policy are made, they will seek consent via email before the changes become effective.

Is this the perfect privacy policy? No, not at all. But it is a marked improvement from many others I have read. What strikes me every time I read a privacy policy is that the language is so difficult and the document is so long that no one reads them. This privacy policy is 5 pages long (I printed it) and it’s in pretty decent font! It is easy to understand and follow and answers most of the main questions I have as a parent. More importantly, as I read through the policy, I felt that student and parental concerns are addressed and acknowledged. A much better place to be than dismissing parents and students.

I would like for more companies to adopt a similar format. It would be a welcome change by all of us, but more importantly I believe that a tone friendly privacy policy bridges the gap of communication that is currently abysmal between parents and software companies. Let’s keep it going. Reader friendly and effective privacy policies can exist.

 

 

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