The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) act came into effect several years ago, and as that time was passing by, a question arose for multiple industries: how has GDPR affected marketing? The answer is that the GDPR did affect marketing approaches significantly. All organizations of different sizes and in almost all industries working with the EU and the UK should adhere to this regulation in order to avoid legal issues. Therefore, the GDPR is regional by design but global in fact.
In this post, we explain what GDPR means for marketers and provide best practices that an organization can introduce in marketing to protect customer information under GDPR more effectively. These practices can help you reduce the chance of suffering from legal issues, reputational decline and serious fines.
The GDPR was introduced by the European Commission and came into force in 2018 with the aim to improve EU residents’ data protection. In this field, the GDPR defines ways and means to protect user data from theft, misuse and sale by appropriate entities. The GDPR defines two entities with their responsibilities under the law being different: data controllers (entities that hold and store the sensitive data) and data processors (entities that operate the data in favor of controllers).
The key principles of the GDPR that shape the main focus of the entire law are:
- Lawfulness, transparency and fairness
- Purpose limitation
- Data minimization
- Storage limitation
For marketers, the GDPR means the need to develop an honest and transparent approach to customer data. Speaking more precisely, the sensitive data that can be valuable or identify the person should be treated respectfully. An organization can only collect such data after getting a clear consent from the data owner (customer), take exclusively the required records and ensure data accuracy. A separate crucial detail is the obligation of an organization to use the necessary means to reliably protect customer data.
How do companies protect customer information under the GDPR? For marketers specifically, there exist time-tested solutions and practices that help ensure sensitive data protection along with compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation act. Check and apply the recommendations below to boost your organization’s data protection efficiency in general, and to protect customer data more reliably in particular.
Reducing the amount of collected data is among the most effective ways for an organization to lower the data loss and breach risks. Hackers aim to hit the databases with as much data as possible because the larger number and wider type of records they access can directly increase their profits. When an organization doesn’t store large volumes of customer data, cybercriminals may choose not to target these databases.
As a marketer, you can and should gather only the data required for current marketing purposes. Review your data collection workflows and templates, and analyze data practices to check whether the records you collect are actually used. In case some data isn’t in use or doesn’t make a significant impact on your clients’ experience, consider refusing to collect that type of data and removing the records already at your disposal.
Additionally, according to GDPR, you need to let your clients know about the data you collect and receive their explicit permission for that collection. On the other hand, the opportunity to opt out at any moment should be provided. Under GDPR, sensitive data collection without the client’s permission can be the case for legal fines.
Again, the larger amount of data in your organization’s storage, the higher the risk for a data breach. Thus, regular audits of mailing lists are the email marketing GDPR practice that you should integrate. The clients that unsubscribe from your email promos, newsletters and other marketing materials should have their information removed from the database. Additionally, you may need to sort client addresses according to their email subscription categories to avoid sending them marketing materials they don’t want to receive.
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Consider automating the email marketing list cleanup process to comply with GDPR in marketing, save time and improve the user experience with more personalized emails.
Modern organizations, even smaller ones, collect, store and process terabytes of data for marketing and other purposes. With a data management team on board, you can have the records categorized, prioritized for usage and controlled according to the legal requirements for data protection. Qualified data management experts can help you ensure a higher level of customer data security and also save costs and time on storage, search and protection workflows.
This includes at least the workflow for data collection and the path that the data goes through before getting recorded in your storage. Consider checking the landing page form that you use to ask clients to provide the required data. Also, the GDPR wants organizations to add informational notification pop-ups for the website visitors about the data collection, and again, to get their explicit consent that allows you to collect personal data.
The next important step here is to monitor other sources of sensitive data (if your organization has them as the data collector or processor according to the contract requirements). Finally, you need to understand which third parties can access that data on the way. Remember that the GDPR requires legal contracts established between different entities working with sensitive client information, and consider excluding third parties without contract responsibilities from your data supply chains.
Just like with third-party contractors, protecting customer data inside an organization is a matter of access control. Analyze which data and accesses are required for which departments and team members to perform their duties. Then, provide those departments and team members only with the data access levels and permissions they need. Keep the principle of least privilege (PoLP) and integrate role-based access control (RBAC) solutions to effectively and quickly manage data access permissions for teams.
Once again, the GDPR is a complex act that is mandatory for any organization collecting personal data of EU residents. Legal repercussions and fines under this act are severe, and even a slight mistake of a staff member can trigger the legal process. Thus, employees and managers should know the requirements and nuances of the GDPR act to reduce the probability of human errors. Consider holding a compliance training for every newcomer and introduce topical tests, for example, once a year to keep the GDPR qualification of employees not only in your marketing team but in other departments as well.
Cybersecurity threats are evolving all the time as cybercriminals are inventing new ways to infiltrate protected systems and access sensitive data. Whatever your security measures are, as a marketer you should always strive to improve marketing data protection. To do that effectively, you need to set up IT security revision workflows that keeps you up to date with the latest cyber protection trends.
Consider implementing regular full-scale penetration testing workflows with a security professional trying to pass through the organization’s protection. Thus, you can discover vulnerabilities in your security layers and then introduce fixes before hackers could use them to conduct an actual breach. The complexity of modern infrastructures along with the evolution of cyberattack tools make creating an invincible protection perimeter close to impossible.
Additionally, you should review the data you store. In case there is data that you don’t use for marketing purposes (and that you won’t use in the future), consider deleting that data. By doing so, you reduce your organization’s potential vulnerabilities, and also lower chances of sensitive data leakage even after the successful breach.
What is one of the greatest risks of an organization storing customer data? Normally, one would say that’s data theft or leakage. However, the GDPR states punishments for another frequent consequence of a security breach: data loss. In addition to that, losing sensitive data such as the customer base after, for example, a successful ransomware attack, can cause significant difficulties for an organization’s activity and profitability in the future.
Regardless of the security measures applied to your organization’s infrastructure, attackers are always one step ahead of any defense. That means, your protection is going to fail sooner or later, jeopardizing your data.
Backup, which is a standalone recoverable data copy stored in a different storage, is the only
reliable way to keep control of the required data after major data loss disasters. Consider using NAKIVO Backup & Replication in case you use Microsoft products to organize data exchange and management in your organization. Whatever the IT infrastructure is, aim to automate sensitive data backup and ensure swift recovery to satisfy GDPR compliance requests at any moment.
The General Data Protection Regulation act is mandatory for organizations collecting personal data of EU residents. To ensure GDPR compliance and improve customer data protection in marketing activities, you should:
- Minimize data collection: collect and store only what you need;
- Regularly conduct mailing audits;
- Assemble a data management team to optimize sensitive data collection, usage and protection;
- Know how and where you get your data;
- Limit data access with the RBAC model and keep the principle of least privilege;
- Ensure that employees know the GDPR requirements and follow them;
- Regularly update your data protection approaches;
- Integrate backup workflows in your organization's IT environment.