GDPR: The Long Arm of the Law

Posted By , May 6th, 2018

Europe’s New Rules on Digital Data Will Impact More Than Just Europeans

I guess we all should have assumed that the “party” would end at some point.

The “party” am I referring to is the unregulated – or lightly regulated – party of digital data usage in marketing.

Too much spamming, political “influencing” and peeking behind the curtains of large Social Media companies, have stimulated government interest. Now users are questioning, “Did I really agree for them to use my personal information that way?”

We should have known better. I painfully recall lessons from my Dad that there was no such thing as a free lunch but oh did we lap up those free services from the likes of Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others. How could we possibly resist such a compelling offer to connect with our own friends, family, and colleagues? Heck, even one of them had tagline that said “don’t be evil.” I guess they are not using that one anymore as the gig is up – the price of admission was our personal details and the right for them to make money off our personal information – our identity!

Enter the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that will be enforceable starting May 25, 2018: Marketers better pay heed! It impacts not only Europeans and European companies but any data coming out of Europe. This also means European user/customers/subscribers that reside anywhere around the world. This makes it extremely tricky in the digital world as information flows mainly freely without respect for national borders. Toss in the use of VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) and location of users becomes downright hard to track.

So what is GDPR all about? It is the European Parliament / Council of European Union / European Commission’s attempt to legislate data protection and to move control of personal data to the individual citizens. By making it a regulation and not a directive it is enforceable, so non-compliance is fineable. Here is Wikipedia’s take: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Data_Protection_Regulation

Unlike the Great Firewall of China that effectively censors the Internet in China by blocking websites and content, GDPR is one of the first attempts in the West to set some belated ground rules for the super highway when it comes to the use of personal data. The idea is to turn the rights of this data back to the individual citizen and mandate that companies explicitly get permission to use the data in certain ways. No more tricky “Terms of Service” and undefined use of personal data like names, addresses, photos, emails, etc.

These are some of the areas that GDPR are looking address. As you can see marketers will be right in the middle of complying with these new rules. According to GDPR for Marketing: The Definitive Guide for 2018 the 3 key areas that marketers will have to pay attention to are:

  1. Data Permission
  2. Data Access
  3. Data Focus

According to Forbes, the role of the marketer in GDPR is paramount not just in how marketing campaigns are designed but in how customer leads and data is stored and used. The marketing department in many cases is the gatekeeper of this information. Past practices like sharing leads with partners could run afoul of the GDPR rules.

Whether you are doing direct business in Europe or just getting inquiries, be warned: the EU-GDPR has direct consequences for marketers all over the world!

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