GDPR: The Consumer Strikes Back

Data. Like most things in life it can be used for good and it can be used for evil, depending on the user. Here in the digital age, data just seems to fall out of the sky into marketers’ waiting little hands. But, data always comes at a price, and I’m not talking about the cost of buying of an e-mail list.

Case in point — the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) enacted by our friends across the pond in the EU/UK. The rules state that if you run a website that COULD be accessed by citizens of these regions, then these new laws apply to you. It’s basically a digital bill of rights for EU/UK consumers in the wake of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal (among others) that govern how consumer data can be collected, used and stored. And the fines are BIG — $25 million Euro to start. See, that gets everyone’s attention very quickly.

Here’s my main point — the day before GDPR went into effect, I received no fewer than 15 privacy policy revamp e-mails from the many vendors with whom I regularly interact. And my question is — why did it take a government regulation from a region where I don’t even live to get these companies to realize they should be more careful with my data? The message sent loud and clear is — “Oh, hey, NOW we care — your privacy is SO important to us (from the people who brought you “your call is so important to us”) and NOW, man we are going to do better by golly! (Insert eye roll here).

Facebook’s new apology tour ads even say that — Hey, we’re going to do better. And you can almost hear people saying — Yeah, well why didn’t you do better before the government told you to do better? Are you sorry or are you just sorry you got caught.

To me, the problem is a lack of empathy at the organizational level. Marketing departments lack the ability to act like actual human people and realize that their super-creepy retargeting, list buying, info collecting tendencies MAY not be in the best interests of the audiences they are trying to reach.

When you begin your communications program with empathy, trust and respect of your audience, you really don’t need any government to tell you what is right and wrong anymore. Give it a try and see what you think.

GREAT communications efforts begin with EMPATHY!