What the EU’s GDPR Means for Marketers in North America

GDPR. GDPR. GDPR.

Anyone else still recovering from the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) inbox flood?

If you’re based in North America, you’ve probably also wondered to yourself if you’re even affected by GDPR. (Spoiler: you are!)

While centered on the European Union (EU), the GDPR will have a global impact.
While centered on the European Union (EU), the GDPR has a global impact.

The GDPR’s Global Impact

While centered on the European Union (EU), the GDPR has a global impact. Here’s why.

Even if you’re based in the US, Canada, or Mexico, if you handle any data from EU customers (there are 28 countries in the EU), you’ll be affected.

There are certain caveats to these rules:

  1. If the EU visitor/customer is not in the EU when you collect their data, the GDPR does not apply.
  2. Your visitor or customer does not need to purchase from your site for the GDPR to apply to your business.
  3. If you’re hosting a generic survey without directly targeting EU consumers, but a prospect from Britain fills it out, they are not covered under GDPR. However, if your study even mentions the EU, then the law kicks in.

But what about California?

The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 is another hot ticket item that could bring GDPR-like privacy rules to California– the heart of tech.

The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 could bring GDPR-like privacy rules to California.
The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 could bring GDPR-like privacy rules to California.

This could spell out a major change for businesses that collect and sell customer data. Customers will have to ask how their data is being used, and request to be removed (opt out). The GDPR focuses more on opt-in requirements, making the California regulations much more friendly to data collectors.

Customers who choose to opt out, cannot be punished or charged higher fees for services. And here’s the clincher: it allows public prosecutors and citizens to sue for data breaches or for the sale of personal data after someone has opted out. There’s no requirement that specific harm be proven before damages can be awarded.

Citizens can sue for data breaches and there’s no requirement that specific harm must be proven before damages can be awarded under California’s proposed Consumer Privacy Act.

This will make effective tracking and following through on opt-outs a top priority for companies that collect data in California.

What does this all mean for marketers in North America?

In a time where people are being asked for their data on a daily basis, and that data is being traded with other businesses, it’s about time customers gained some power. Historically, customers have had their data traded and sold without their knowledge, and with the rise in cybersecurity leaks, it’s well past time every internet user had rights.

As a marketer, it means you need to be prepared for a new age of data collection and transparency.

With these regulations moving from a possibility to a reality, we need to become proactive. Even if California’s privacy act does not pass, it’s inevitable that marketers will see a shift in data collection regulations.

Marketing strategies must shift from a cold transactional approach, to a warm, transparent and relationship-focused strategy.  

So, How Do You Build Trust as a Marketer?

It starts with upfront communication before you ask for any customer data.

When you collect data from customers, you need to clearly tell them how you plan on using that data. The context will matter when working within regulations like GDPR, because your stated context for collecting/using data is the only way you are legally allowed to use this data.

You can earn big points with consumers for providing the transparency they deserve.

From there, you need to give them explicit details on how you will use their data, and if you want to send them different information, you need to get permission.

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Additional Resources

  • IDC Five Steps to GDPR
      • This white paper is basically a more in-depth version of the five-step guide above, so if you want more details, here’s the next stop.
Annabel Youens

About Annabel Youens

I'm a co-founder and CMO at AE. I believe that truly successful internet businesses have to connect people. {wave} When I'm not online I'm exploring beautiful Vancouver Island. Things I love: everything scifi, literary fiction, coffee, Google Music, my workhorse sewing machine and board games.