By the end of 2016 The Direct Marketing industry should know where they are with the new European Data Protection Act and how it affects personal data.
Before we go into the detail of the new proposed act that Europe has nearly agreed to (just parliament votes now) we need to firstly clarify what is personal data. It is any data that can be directly linked to an individual, so not for example, a name and address, but in the case of an ISP it could also be your cookie on the internet as they can directly identify you. However, it would not be a cookie on a website from a company where they couldn’t trace it back to you.
There are three key pieces to consider; consent, right to object and profiling.
Consent has changed and will now be less ambiguous. It does mean that we will not be expected to get people to opt into direct mail and telephone and organisations will need to be much clearer not hiding the opt out option within lots of other text. This should really tidy up the market and hopefully help the consumer know exactly what they are going to receive. The slight concern is, the possibility that there could be so many tick boxes, that the consumer will lose the will to live and simply tick the lot!
The only thing that I have not seen yet within the new act, which I would like to see, is how long does consent last? 6 months, a year, life? Some products do not have the same shelf life as others, so for example a car is usually changed every 3 to 5 years whereas a pint of milk only lasts a week (unless you buy the posh stuff!!!). Having a time limit against consent would probably not be an issue for FMCG products but you can see the issue for those that have a much longer purchasing cycle.
Right to change their mind or object at any time. The second change is that an individual can change their mind at no cost to them. Again not much of an issue for most organisations. All the companies that I have dealt with wouldn’t hesitate to change their contact status if a consumer wishes it to be changed and wouldn’t charge for that privilege either.
Individuals can also opt out of profiling under the new code, this is new and not been seen before. I have two thoughts on this, firstly does the consumer actually understand what profiling is and secondly what type of profiling are they talking about? For example is it simply where additional data is appended to a record to help enhance the segmentation or will profiling also be seen as transactional data too? If it is the latter that could cause some interesting models going forward.
So the good news is that it’s not going to be opt in for the traditional media of direct mail and as a consequence we shouldn’t see all of the data lists on the market disappear. Yes, they have given the consumer some more rights which seem sensible and I wait to see the overall final outcome of what profiling actually is so that we can see what the impact might be.
But just because the new Data Protection Act is not significantly different to the previous one, some sectors may decide to go above and beyond this for additional consumer confidence.
We will be keeping a very close eye over the coming weeks and months and will be sure to feed back any additional information that we come across.