A New Data Privacy Challenge for Europe – and Beyond

New privacy regulations in Europe have recently become a very hot topic again within the business community. And no, we aren’t talking about the recent GDPR law.

A new privacy initiative, known as the ePrivacy Regulation, deals with electronic communications. Technically a revision to the EU’s existing ePrivacy Directive or “cookie law,” and pending review by the European Union’s member states, it could go into effect as early as this year. And according the New York Times, it is facing strong opposition from many technology giants including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others.

Data privacy meets the app generation

Among other things, the new ePrivacy Regulation requires explicit permission from consumers for applications to use tracking codes or collect data about their private communications, particularly through messaging services such as Skype, iMessage, games and dating apps.  Companies will have to disclose up front how they plan to use this personal data, and perhaps more importantly, must offer the same access to services whether permission is granted or not.

Ironically this new law will also remove the previous directive’s need for the incessant “cookie notices” consumers now receive, by using browser tracking settings, while tightening the use of private data. This will be a mixed blessing for online services, because a simple default browser setting can now lock out the use of tracking cookies that many consumers routinely approved under the old pop-up notices. As part of its opposition to these new rules, trade groups are painting a picture of slashed revenues, fewer free services and curbs on innovation for trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT).

A longstanding saying about online services is that “when something is free, you are the product,” and this new initiative is one of the more visible efforts for consumers to push back and take control of the use of their information. And Europe isn’t alone in this kind of initiative – for example, the new California Consumer Privacy Act, slated for the late 2018 ballot, will also require companies to provide clear opt-out instructions for consumers who do not wish their data to be shared or sold.

The future: more than just European privacy laws

So what does this mean for you and your business? No one can precisely foretell the future of these regulations and others, but the trend over time is clear: consumer privacy legislation will continue to get tighter and tighter. And the days of unfettered access to the personal data of your customers and prospects are increasingly coming to an end. This means that data quality standards will continue to loom larger than ever for businesses, ranging from stricter process controls to maintaining accurate consumer contact information.

We frankly have always seen this trend as an opportunity. As with GDPR, regulations such as these have sprung from past excesses the lie at the intersection of interruptive marketing, big data and the loss of consumer privacy. Consumers are tired of endless spam and corporations knowing their every move, and legislators are responding. But more important, we believe these moves will ultimately lead businesses to offer more value and authenticity to their customers in return for a marketing relationship.

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