We live in a time where transparency in our social interactions is celebrated and encouraged. For example, at Sprout Insights, we’ve shown you how to engage with your customers on Twitter, create a brand presence on Pinterest, and even how to create a company blog to bring more traffic to your website. It’s pretty clear that social media interaction is good for business.

However, the same trend that has led to the viral increase in sharing of information has also made it easier for sensitive information about ourselves, our businesses, and our customers to become public knowledge. Companies like Google and Facebook have come under fire and have even been slapped with lawsuits as a result of sensitive, private information being made available without people’s consent or knowledge.

If you run a company blog, its content is visible to the world. Have you made it clear, both to your writers and to the public, who actually owns that content and who is ultimately responsible for it? Do you store “cookies” when people visit your blog? If your company blog has a commenting system in place, does it collect personal information about your blog visitors? Are commenters aware how their comments might be used, or where their comments might appear?

If you haven’t already drafted a privacy statement for your company blog to address questions like these (and others), this article provides some recommendations as to why and how you need to do this as soon as possible.

Why You Need a Privacy Statement

Having a privacy statement in place on your blog addresses two main objectives. First, it sets the expectations between your business and your readers (and contributors) as to what information is considered yours, what information is considered theirs, and how all of this information will be used and managed.

If people choose to participate in your company blog, either through reading, contributing, sharing or commenting on its content, they know exactly what their rights and responsibilities are. With a comprehensive privacy statement in place, people can make an informed decision as to whether or not they’d like to be a part of your blog community.

Second, a privacy statement may provide legal support to you and your business should anyone ever have a complaint about how his or her information, content, cookies, comments, and so on, is used or published by your blog. As any lawyer will tell you, drafting a privacy policy after a complaint or suit has been filed against you is not exactly the best defense. Spend some time with your blogging team (even if that team’s only member is you) and plan how to protect yourself — and the privacy of your readers and contributors — in the form of a well-crafted, flexible, and practical privacy statement.

How to Craft a Privacy Statement

Like any good business strategy, you have to start with a good plan; don’t just start writing a privacy statement without thinking about your larger goals first. Is your objective for a privacy statement to cover you in the event of a problem, or is it more about providing a comfort level for your readers and stakeholders so that they’ll be more apt to participate in your blog?

Look to other blogs that you admire, or that you participate in yourself, to see how they’ve crafted their privacy policies. Take inspiration (but not the actual verbiage — it’s probably copyright protected) from these blogs. Then, formulate a privacy policy that’s right for your blog and its stakeholders.

If you feel like you’re out of your element and don’t really know how to get the ball rolling, consider using a privacy policy generator. Alternatively you can hire an employee or contractor who specializes in this type of technical writing to create a policy on your behalf.

No matter what route you take to create your company blog’s privacy policy, be sure to have it vetted by a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property and privacy law. After all, the last thing you want to do is spend time and resources developing a policy that doesn’t end up protecting anybody.

Do you have a privacy statement on your company blog? How did you determine what it should include? Any helpful hints to blog owners who haven’t yet created a privacy policy of their own? Share your experiences in the comments below.

[Image credits: Rob Pongsajapan, Ludovic Bertron, opensourceway]