In today’s technology saturated world, data has become a bit of a buzzword. Any marketer worth their salt knows that using data can bring a whole new dimension to a marketing campaign. But there is a mass of data legislation and judicial decisions being considered that could fundamentally alter data’s usage across the globe. It is important that all marketers using data understand the changes that are happening and may yet happen in the future.

In the past few months there have been a number of cases that are making consumers sit up and take notice in the ways organisations and governments are using their data.

Max Schrems has consistently made headlines as he battles tech giant Facebook over its alleged violation of his personal data. This case, which is ongoing, led to the fall of Safe Harbour – a piece of legislation that had enabled relatively simple data transfer from the EU to the US. There is now a deadline of January 2016 for a replacement agreement to be put in place.

More importantly, the demise of Safe Harbour hints at a bigger conflict over how the EU views data protection versus the US. Many countries in the EU disagree on the levels of protection offered by the US Government and feel that interference has gone too far.

A clear signal of this is the passing of the controversial US Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) in October. One of the main provisions of the act is to make it easier for companies to share data with the Government.

Individuals outside the US may feel that their data is safe from the US Government’s scrutiny, but a ruling on a case brought by Microsoft against the US Government may change this. In the case, the US Department of Justice is trying to access emails detailing narcotic sales that are stored in Microsoft’s Dublin data centre. If a ruling is made in favour of the DoJ, it could set a precedent for governments across the globe to access data stored in other countries.

The UK Government has also just introduced the Investigatory Powers Bill to Parliament. In its current form, the bill seeks to restrict the encryption of data and increase the Government’s ability to access personal data.

A key point to understand is that the EU, US and UK now view an individual’s right to privacy in fundamentally different ways. The UK and US share relatively similar views, whereas, the EU holds personal data in a much stricter light. This creates tension when data is shared between countries, and especially in the shadow of Safe Harbour, we may end up seeing a divide appear between the EU, US, and UK. In short, the World Wide Web may end up being not so worldwide in the future.

Add to the mix the recent Ashley Madison and Talk Talk hackings and you can begin to understand why consumers are getting jittery over the storage and use of their data.

What marketers need to do to reduce consumer fears about how data is handled is ensure there are robust security measures in place. Having a clearly written policy detailing who can access the data and when will help prevent misuse of personal information. In the current climate, any breach or mishandling of data is likely to cause a consumer backlash.

Understanding what data to use and what limits to put in place will be a key skill when handling an individual’s data. For a consumer, there’ll be a fine line between being delivered highly personalised content and invasion of privacy.


By Mike Weston, CEO of Profusion. 

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