GDPR. CCPA. Congress grilling Mark Zuckerberg and other tech titans. Governments are rushing to address their constituents’ intense privacy concerns, and marketers and businesses should be taking note. Some regulations are already in place, but it’s clear more will be coming before long.
Privacy regulations affect how you market and how you conduct your business online. To learn more, I talked with Aimclear CEO Laura Weintraub. Laura blends deep legal and business expertise as a lawyer for 25+ years (17 in private practice) before coming to Aimclear as General Counsel and now CEO.
What are some of the primary privacy concerns digital marketers should be paying attention to right now?
LW: Obviously General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is coming of age, so that’s something to monitor. The CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), which officially comes into being in January of 2020, is of concern for a number of reasons we can go into.
But to me the most daunting thing is that every single state is looking at enacting its own legislation. In that scenario, we’ll be confronted with a patchwork of laws and regulations that don’t necessarily match. So compliance in every single state will likely be challenging, to say the least.
On the other hand, I’m hearing there’s some mild interest at the congressional level to have a uniform federal policy. I’m not holding my breath.
How specifically are some of those going to affect the ways we market, what we can and can’t do, in the months and years to come?
LW: How each statute defines what is considered personal information varies, but it also affects how we collect data. We’ve been in a sort of wild, “Wild West” era for the past five years or so, where marketers could do almost anything we wanted with the data that’s readily available. In some instances, people and companies overreached, and now regulators are striking back.
Good marketers will find a way to market, going back to the old fashioned values we all need to respect. The easy pieces are going to be gone because that personal, identifiable targeting will be significantly pared back.
So there are concerns about how we’ll be able to target. What about a business’s operations and practices? How will these regulations affect the way business is done, especially online?
LW: The fines can be huge under the statutes and laws in the various countries I’ve examined. The problem lies with definitions. Many laws have been written so poorly that it’s really hard to understand how to comply until you have a chance to see how they will be enforced, at which point it may be too late.
So, it’s a matter of being more conservative than you may want to be to make sure that you’re well within the limits.
Most of us know about GDPR, making our sites GDPR compliant, having all the right notices and information for visitors to our sites. Let’s close with some other practical things that you think businesses should prioritize in the next year or two to make sure they’re ahead of the game on these issues.
LW: One is making clear on their websites what information will be collected, how data is gathered, and how it can be used. The California Consumer Privacy Act requires some of that additional disclosure. Businesses will have to be more transparent with consumers, clients, and other constituencies about what data they want and how information will be used.
Also, it’s essential to look closely at what information is gathered and whether it’s actually needed. If you don’t need it now, but you think someday it might be cool to have it, don’t take it. Just do the absolute minimum in information gathering to run your business and do your marketing program.
Privacy is a tricky area that requires extraordinary vigilance. Until a federal standard is in place, marketers face some real difficulty. Whether from a trade association or just sharing among marketers, it’s useful to see what others are doing to protect themselves and be in compliance. Understanding what’s expected, potential ramifications, and courses of action will help marketers make smart decisions as we move forward through what will likely be murky waters for a while.