The Email Edge: Privacy Across The Pond

U.S. companies have to adjust when they market overseas. It’s not just the pop-ups required when a company posts cookies — it’s a whole other mindset. Case in point: the changes contained in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.  

The new rules, which take effect next year, “protect EU citizens globally,” writes Darren Bond, of the UK’s Coast Digital. “Even companies based outside of the EU will have to abide by these rules when dealing with personal data from EU citizens.”

That’s no surprise. But responsibility has been extended to cover data processors like Coast Digital as well as data controllers, or owners. And there are strict rules for getting consent from consumers.

“I know what you’re thinking — we already have to do that,” Bond continues. He notes that the “majority of the changes are focused on record keeping (by both the Data Controller and Processors involved).”

And the consent itself? As Bond describes it, this must be informed, freely given and specific. “If you use email and telemarketing, the user will need to be able to opt-in to both, either or none of these forms of marketing separately,” he writes. And consent requires more than a tick-off box, he adds.

But the question remains: Where can marketers get into trouble? Martin Abrams, executive director of the Information Accountability Foundation, described one of the trouble spots in a recent conversation with MediaPost. It happens when companies move from observation-driven marketing into surveillance. Where’s the line between the two? At the point where firms try to control behavior instead of influencing it — for example, when they use data to limit offers and restrict consumer choice.

But isn’t that type of targeting the basis of modern marketing? "I'm not sure I agree with the concept (of) prospects having unlimited access to any or all products — if that means the marketer has to pay for an audience they don't want," one reader commented.

Good point. But it shows again that U.S. companies have a Wild West outlook compared to their European counterparts.  

“You can think with data and draw insights in the U.S.,” Abrams told MediaPost. “That’s a competitive advantage because thinking with data is an unregulated activity. Outside the U.S., you have to have a justification even to process data.”

This brings to mind a debate that started a few years ago. Attorney Jonas Lerman argued that the poor are “routinely ignored when governments and private industry use Big Data and advanced analytics to shape public policy and the marketplace.”

Here’s a sort of a privacy violation in reverse — one that excludes people instead of including them. 

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