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Do I need a privacy policy if my business is not online?

If you have an offline “side hustle” or a business that isn’t presented on a website or app, you may be wondering whether you still need a privacy policy.

The short answer is: possibly. Even handmade jewellery stores or home-based hairdressing businesses may still need a privacy policy, but this depends on how your business operates and which data privacy laws apply to you.

Most existing legislation explicitly targets businesses that have a website. For example, the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA) was the first law in the US to require businesses to feature a privacy policy on their website.

Other regulations, however, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), don’t focus exclusively on online businesses. The GDPR states that the laws apply to “the processing of personal data wholly or partly by automated means and to the processing other than by automated means of personal data which form part of a filing system or are intended to form part of a filing system.”

Similarly, the Australian Privacy Act (1988) applies to certain businesses and government agencies that handle personal information about consumers.

Under these laws, the method of collection doesn’t really matter. As long as you’re collecting personal information about your customers, suppliers, partners and other people who come into contact with your business, you may need a privacy policy.

While your small business may not be impacted by these laws (particularly if you don’t have an international presence), it’s still a good idea to have a basic policy around how you manage people’s data.

Having a clear policy to refer to upon the point of collection will help you build trust with your customers. In the event of a breach or loss of data (such as a physical theft or phishing attack on your email account), your privacy policy can also provide some protection for your business by limiting your liability.

For more information about privacy for sole business owners, you can check out our other posts on data privacy for freelancers and current privacy laws around the use of third-party services.

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