What to Look For in a Good Privacy Policy

Can You Trust That Privacy Policy?

Photo of a person typing quickly.
Don't be in such a rush to enter sweepstakes that you skip the privacy policy. A good privacy policy keeps you safe!. Image (c) Karpati Gabor, MorgueFile.

Why Are Good Privacy Policies So Important, Anyway?

Entering sweepstakes is a give and take. In exchange for a chance to win, you submit your personal information to a company and have to trust that they will treat it respectfully. If not, you could be deluged with unwanted telephone calls, your inbox could be filled with spam, and your mailbox could be groaning under the weight of junk mail.

Nobody wants to deal with that.

 

So how can you tell how a company will handle your personal information before you hand it over? 

You do it by reading the privacy policy of each giveaway before you enter, and not submitting your entry form if you are not comfortable with how your information will be treated. A good privacy policy will describe how your information will be used and will make it clear that the company collecting it will not use your contact information in a predatory way.

It is disappointing to pass up a great-sounding prize because of a weak or missing privacy policy, but protecting your privacy is worth it. And there are always new sweepstakes to enter.

What Is a Privacy Policy, Anyway?

A privacy policy is a legal contract between you and a company describing how the company will use any personal information they collect on their website. A privacy policy does not necessarily protect you from receiving emails, mails, or telephone calls, but it does provide transparency in letting you know what the company is planning on doing with your name, email address, and other personal information.

It is also possible to sue a company for violating its privacy agreement. Even if you never intend to file a lawsuit, having the option to do so holds companies accountable, avoiding abuse.

What to Look For in a Good Privacy Policy You Can Trust:

Of course, it's vital that any giveaway you want to enter _have_ a privacy policy.

Some sites don't, and then you simply have to trust that the company will handle your data respectfully. In most cases, it's best to play it safe and skip giveaways that don't include a privacy policy.

But just offering a privacy policy isn't enough. Most privacy policies are no fun to read, and when faced with a large block of legalese, you might be tempted to give up. But reading each privacy policy will allow you to make an informed decision about whether to trust a company with your personal information or not. Having a privacy policy available won't help you if the company states outright that it will sell your personal information to the highest bidder! 

Here are some questions that should be answered in a good privacy policy:

  • What information will be collected? Will the company gather data about you other than what you submit through entry forms? Will any additional information be tied to your identity, or is the company looking for aggregate data (for example, will they track where _you_ come from, or which sites their visitors use to find them  in general?)
     
  • How will that information be used? Will the information be used only to contact sweepstakes winners, or will you be added to marketing lists?
     
  • How will your information be stored? And for how long? Will your personal information be deleted after the giveaway has ended, or the sponsor continue to keep it on file indefinitely?
     
  • Which security measures will protect your information? Even if the company hosting a giveaway is completely trustworthy, you can end up at risk if they are hacked. Make sure that they have security measures in place to keep your information safe.
     
  • Will your information be shared with others? Some privacy policies state that your personal information will only be used in-house. Others state that they will share information with companies that are contracted to do things like draw winners or maintain servers. Still other privacy policies will state that they will share your information with partners, or sell it to be added to marketing lists. The less sharing, the more secure your information is.
     
  • How can you contact the company? If you have a problem or want to be able to remove yourself from the company's database, having a way to contact them is important.
     

If a website does not offer any privacy policy, if you don't like the terms as stated, or if the policy seems thin on details or otherwise untrustworthy, it's a good idea to move on to another site.

Privacy Policies and Facebook Sweepstakes:

Note that Facebook sweepstakes fall under the privacy policy of the company running the giveaway, not under Facebook's privacy policy. The information you submit on entry forms does not go to Facebook, but to the sweepstakes' sponsor. Make sure that you check the privacy policies of each individual company whose sweepstakes you enter, regardless of the platform where the giveaway is hosted.

Other Signs of Trustworthiness:

A good privacy policy is an important sign that sweepstakes are safe to enter. However, there are also other issues that you should be familiar with. Before you fill out any entry forms, you should familiarize yourself with how much information is reasonable to give out.

You should also check whether the sweepstakes sponsor seems legit. And of course, before you enter anything at all, you should know the warning signs of sweepstakes scams.

By taking a few precautions, you can ensure that you avoid spam, identity theft, and other downsides of sharing your personal information.