What to Look For in a Good Privacy Policy

The Essential Elements of a Good Privacy Policy You Can Trust

Entering sweepstakes is a give and take between the entrants and the companies sponsoring the giveaways. In exchange for a chance to win, you submit your personal information to a company and trust that they will treat it respectfully. So it's important to know what to look for in the company's privacy policy before you enter.

If you don't read privacy policies before you enter sweepstakes, you could be deluged with unwanted telephone calls, your inbox could be filled with spam emails, and your mailbox could be groaning under the weight of junk mail.

Nobody wants to deal with that. 

So even if it feels onerous, read the privacy policy of each giveaway before you enter. 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. If you aren't comfortable with how your information will be treated, don't enter, even if the prize is enticing.

It's disappointing to pass up a great-sounding prize because of a weak or missing privacy policy, but protecting your privacy is worth it. There are always other sweepstakes to enter and other great prizes to win.

What Is a Privacy Policy, Anyway?

A privacy policy is a legal contract between you and a company which describes how the company will use any personal information they collect on their website. A privacy policy does not necessarily protect you from receiving emails, letters, or telephone calls, but it does tell you what the company is planning on doing with your personal information.

Because a privacy policy is a legally binding agreement, it's 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, which makes it less likely that they will abuse your trust.

What Makes a Privacy Policy Good?

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

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

But just because a privacy policy exists doesn't mean it's good for you. You have to read through each one to find out whether your information will be treated respectfully.

Now, most privacy policies are no fun to read, and when faced with a large block of legalese you might be tempted to skip it. But reading each privacy policy will allow you to make an informed decision. 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! And some of them really do.

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 collected 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 will the sponsor 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 other companies? This can range from keeping all information in-house or sharing it with contracted partners who draw winners or provide security to sharing your information with giveaway partners or selling it 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. Furthermore, 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, but you shouldn't stop there. There are a few more issues that you should research before deciding to enter a giveaway.

    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.