Despite claims that the age of privacy is over, many Internet users continue to have privacy concerns, particularly as more and more of our personal data is stored and shared online.

Having a privacy policy for your startup is important then in terms of meeting the legal requirements for protecting your customers’ personal information. But it’s also important in terms of building trust of people who use your products and services. And while, granted, not everyone is going to click on the link to read your privacy policy, that doesn’t mean you can avoid addressing this topic. And in fact, how you address privacy issues might be a way that sets your startup apart from your competitors.

A privacy policy does not need to be a lengthy, jargon-filled legal document (although you might want legal counsel in drafting it). While Microsoft’s privacy policy clocks in at around 4000 words and Google’s contains around 1800, the search engine DuckDuckGo posted its privacy policy today: clear, concise, and 10 words. “By default, DuckDuckGo does not collect or share personal information.”

The bulk of DuckDuckGo’s privacy page addresses “why you should care” and explains the ways in which other search engines track and store your information. It’s an important distinction for DuckDuckGo as the startup positions itself as a search engine that not only delivers less spam- and ad-filled results, but that protects the privacy of its users’ searches.

The privacy policy that your startup drafts will vary depending on your business, the kinds of data you capture, and your intentions for it. But in general, here are some things your privacy policy should address:

1. What information do you collect?

2. How do you collect the information?

3. How do you use the information?

4. What control do users have over their personal data?

5. How do you protect users’ information?

DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg contends that “too many startups copy and paste the longest one they can find because they want to cover all the bases. I think a better approach is to speak in readable English directly to your users. If you are storing information, just explain why.” Being transparent will go a long way towards building your users’ trust – and hopefully, their business.

Photo credits: Flickr user Let Ideas Compete