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What’s your privacy policy?

by Lerner, Hank on

There has been a lot of chatter about privacy policies recently. You may have seen complaints about Facebook’s privacy policy over the years, and they recently hit the news again because of some changes they made to their Terms of Service.

In the real estate world, there is some concern over the requirement in NAR’s rules for Virtual Office Websites that all VOW operators must have a privacy policy posted on their site. In fact, any brokers and agents who collect any sort of personally identifiable information about visitors to their site ought to have one anyway, but the VOW rule was put in place because any VOW site, by it’s nature, will be collecting personal information that will need to be safeguarded. And did you know that Standard of Practice 12-11 of the NAR Code of Ethics requires disclosure on your website if you’re collecting any information about a consumer that might be shared?

Is developing a privacy policy a difficult thing to do?  Um…it depends.

On the one hand, there are some sample policies out there that can be customized by just filling in the blanks to reflect the policies and procedures of that particular site. The problem most practioners will have, however, is that they likely don’t have those policies and procedures in place. For example, if you ask consumers to fill out a form identifying themselves and their property needs, do you have specific rules about what you do with the data? Do you know if and how your Website provider collects information about consumers who come to your Web site? Do you know if your site uses cookies? Do you even know what a cookie is?

There are lots of issues to consider when establishing your privacy policies. PAR has updated our Data Security Resources page with information explaining this issue and providing some links to resources you can use to develop your own privacy policy. You might also want to take a look at a polices on the PAR and NAR sites as a general idea of the sorts of things that are often covered. And you should definitely have a long conversation with your Web site provider to figure out just what is collected from your site and how it is used and stored.

As with any legal issue, you’re strongly advised to consult with counsel to be sure your practices and your written policy comply with relevant laws and regulations.

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Policy Privacy
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