The New AdSense Privacy Policy

AdSense Privacy Policy WordPress PluginA few days ago, all AdSense publishers were presented with a new set of terms and conditions. If you don’t agree with the new terms, you’ll be booted out of the AdSense program at the end of May.

One of the changes to the terms and conditions that will affect all AdSense publishers is the new privacy policy requirement. Here’s what Google wants:

You must have and abide by an appropriate privacy policy that complies with applicable privacy and data protection laws and that clearly discloses that third parties may be placing and reading cookies on your  browser, or using web beacons to collect information, in the course of ads being served on your website. Your privacy policy should also include information about user options for cookie management.

Most AdSense publishers are familiar with cookies, but the term web beacon may be new to you. A web beacon is also known as a “tracking pixel” — a small (usually 1 pixel high by 1 pixel wide) image that is inserted into the background of a web page. The beacon is the same color as the background (or is transparent) and hence invisible to the user. When the browser fetches the image, however, a web server can track some basic information about the user (IP address, any cookies, browser used, etc.). Beacons are generally used in HTML emails to track when and how many emails are read as part of an email broadcast.

To abide by the new rules, you are going to have to retrofit all your AdSense sites to include an appropriate privacy policy. It’s not hard to add a privacy policy, but if you have a lot of sites it will take some work to update them all. If you’ve built sites recently, chances are you already have a privacy policy in place, but it’s probably not comprehensive enough.

What Is A Privacy Policy?

On the Web, a privacy policy is a legal notice on a website describing how personal information is collected and used by the owners of the website.

Some jurisdictions require that sites display privacy policies. Some advertising programs require it as well. In general, it’s a good idea for any site to display a privacy policy, not just for legal/contract requirements but because it’s good for the visitors to a site to know what information is being collected about them and what’s happening to it.

Privacy Policy Plugin For WordPress

At the end of February, 2008, Google started requiring AdSense publishers to display a privacy policy on all sites that displayed AdSense ads or search boxes. Since many WordPress blogs are monetized with AdSense, I decided to write a plugin that would automate the creation of AdSense-compliant privacy policies for WordPress users. Thus the Privacy Policy Plugin for WordPress was born.

Requirements

Self-hosted WordPress 2.0 or higher. You don’t actually need to be displaying AdSense ads, the privacy policy is generic enough to be used with most sites. If you collect any kind of personal information via a squeeze page, however, you’ll have to wait for an update to the plugin to handle those situations.

Installation

Installation is simple, as with most WordPress plugins. Download the privacy-policy-1.1.zip file and extract its contents into your blog’s wp-content/plugins folder. This will create a new privacy-policy subfolder containing the plugin. (The plugin doesn’t actually need to be in its own subfolder, but it’s recommended you place it there.) Go to the Plugins tab in your WordPress administration console and activate the plugin.

Usage

Once the plugin has been activated, go to the Options tag and click on Privacy Policy. Reasonable defaults will be selected for the privacy policy, but change them as appropriate and press the Update Options button to store the new settings.

Now create the privacy policy page for your site. The easiest way to do this is to press the Create Page button at the bottom of the options page. This creates a static page with the given title and slug (path) that displays a privacy policy based on the current settings.

Alternatively, you can simply insert a privacy policy onto an existing page using the special trigger text:

    <!-- privacy-policy -->

anywhere on the page. When the page is displayed, the trigger is replaced with the current privacy policy.

That’s it! Short and simple.

Future Plans

If there’s enough interest, I will add features to this plugin such as:

  • Support for different privacy policies (perhaps based on locale?)
  • Multi-lingual support
  • Squeeze pages
  • More configurability

Just leave a comment here and we can discuss it.

Updates

  • Version 1.1 (October 20, 2012): Updated the plugin to meet Google’s new AdSense privacy policy requirements. Just copy the new privacy-policy.php file over the old one and your privacy policy will be automatically updated.

Download

Web Browser Privacy Management

As identity theft and other privacy issues become a concern to members of the general public, it’s important to understand how personal information is handled by web browsers and how users can effectively manage web browser privacy.

Sites typically track users using web cookies, which are basically tags of information that the web server sends to the web browser. The web browser sends that tag back the web server each time the user visits a page on the website.

All browsers have the ability to turn off these tracking cookies, or to delete them. Just look under your “tools” or “options” configuration menu. If turning off web cookies is too extreme a solution for you, there are third-party add-ins/extensions that can be used to manage your web privacy in a much more controlled manner.