Donata Stroink-Skillrud and Hans Skillrud join the BSuite podcast.

Episode 8: Protecting Data Privacy with Donata Stroink-Skillrud and Hans Skillrud

In this episode of the BSuite podcast, host Anne Richardson digs into the complex topic of data privacy with experts Donata Stroink-Skillrud and Hans Skillrud, founders of Termageddon, a service that generates and updates website privacy policies, cookie policies, and terms & conditions for small businesses. Termageddon exists to help businesses remain in compliance with the rapidly evolving landscape of privacy regulations. Hans and Donata break down the basics of privacy law compliance, explain why a lack of standardized privacy law in the United States (and around the globe) causes so much trouble for business and consumers, and ultimately imagine the positive impact that better privacy practices could have on the advertising industry as a whole.

My theory is that if people do get more privacy rights, we're actually going to see better advertisements than ever before. Because if people get a choice on how they get marketed to, advertisers had better be producing some awesome commercials. I actually think it's going to create a better environment where we're not going to be brought to clickbait nonsense that doesn't actually provide value. We're going to see companies have better morals and better goals and more interesting commercials and ads because otherwise we're just going to opt out.

Key Takeaways

Founding a Website Privacy Policy Service

Donata, a licensed privacy attorney, fellow of the American Bar Foundation, and chair of the ePrivacy Committee at the American Bar Association, and Hans, a former digital agency owner, first discovered their mutual fascination with privacy policies over dinner early in their relationship. This conversation not only led to their eventual marriage, but also to their business partnership. They founded Termageddon, a website policies generator service, with the goal of making the constantly changing and widely varying landscape of privacy policy compliance accessible to small businesses. By helping businesses disclose why and how they collect and share user data, Hans and Donata also advocate for and help protect individual data privacy rights.

Why is it Important to Have a Privacy Policy?

According to Hans, the privacy policies, cookie policies, and disclosures that Termageddon generates for their subscribers “are not the most exciting things that make up a website or mobile app for that matter. But the fact is, they are there to help respect the privacy rights of the people who visit your website. They’re there to help you comply with laws and limit liability.” Privacy laws protect website users by providing them with the information they need to make informed decisions about whether or not to use a given website based on how and why the site owner collects and shares personal data. As part of her work for the American Bar Association, Donata advises the Association as to which privacy related legislation to support in order to protect consumers from privacy violations such as selling personal data without permission.

Why is Non-Compliance So Common for Businesses?

For business owners, updated privacy policies ensure compliance with laws and help avoid any risk of fine or penalties from the Federal Trade Commission. For many small businesses, the legal costs of keeping up with ever-changing privacy laws can make compliance a challenge. An added element to the difficulty of privacy law compliance is that the United States doesn’t have a standardized privacy law such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Oftentimes, small businesses rely on boilerplate privacy policies or policies adapted from their competitors, but Donata and Hans warn against this practice, citing many examples of non-compliance that can result from copying another business’s privacy policy.

For larger companies who can afford the legal teams needed to craft these policies, the problem is often the reverse: the fines and penalties levied in the instances of privacy law violations aren’t enough incentive for large companies to change their behavior around user privacy. Hans clarifies that Termageddon’s goal isn’t to take down large companies or the digital industry but to protect users. He explains, “The Google business model is going to continue running. The Facebook business model is going to continue running. Ads will continue running. The only difference is that as consumers, as humans, our name is our property, our email is our property, our phone number is our property. I get to tell you what you get to do with it.”

Connecting Data Privacy and Sustainability

For agencies concerned with sustainability, Donata and Hans offer three key tips:

  1. Train employees to understand privacy and the data your company collects as well as the data other companies might collect about them.
  2. Check the privacy policies of your vendors. Make sure they are respecting users’ rights to privacy, and consider their answers to questions about privacy when determining whether or not to use their products or services.
  3. When setting up any new product, service, or ad campaign, consider how you prefer to be treated when you are a consumer. Hans advises business owners that, “you have an opportunity to respect people’s privacy rights, which I personally believe not only currently builds trust, but will build more trust as time goes on.”