UK PLC needs to redouble EU efforts on data

So, everyone is agreed. The industry, Government and MPs (on the Justice Select Committee anyway) have all pretty much concluded the proposed revision of European Union data laws would trigger apocalyptic repercussions for UK PLC.

Russell Parsons

Unfortunately, it is not enough for all of the UK’s stakeholders to be in agreement. The UK is just one of 27 member states and unlike other recent EU legislative changes – data privacy rules commonly known as the cookie law, for example – this one will be uniformly implemented.

To recap, the Commission announced proposals to update current data protection laws, first introduced in 1995, in January, ostensibly to reflect the growth in digital media and addresses growing concern over data privacy.

Proposals of particular concern to marketing trade bodies include the requirement brands must gain explicit consent from consumers to use their personal data with a need to inform customers “clearly, understandably and transparently” about how their data will be used. At present, it is enough to assume consent through a consumer’s silence,
“Affirmative action” on the part of the consumer companies will be required to inform customers “clearly, understandably and transparently” about how their data will be used.

Elsewhere, a new “right to be forgotten” clause that allows consumers to insist that data collected online is deleted unless a company can demonstrate that “there is a legitimate reason to keep it”.

Such restrictions on the use of data will be hugely damaging to sales, bodies such the DMA and IAB argue.

Data protection laws do not need updating. The measures proposed earlier this year would ensure considerable strides for individual rights in a digital age unforeseen when the current rules were implemented.

They would also drag other member states, particularly the former communist and new states that have joined the EU since the current laws were implemented, up to the same standards of data protection that citizens of the UK, for example, currently enjoy.

It could also be argued, whisper it, that such prescriptive measures would be of benefit to marketers ultimately as targeting would be improved by only being able to use data on those that offered express permission.

As much as there are elements of the draft proposals to admire, in the main the one size fits all approach ignores the natural inclination of the vast majority in the marketing industry – not to risk the goodwill of consumers by unscrupulous use of personal data and related the desire to improve targeting by honing in on warm prospects.

The EU needs to strike the right balance between providing personal protection while not stifling growth. UK PLC is in agreement and all parties must now redouble efforts in Brussels to reshape regulation before it comes anywhere near the statute books.


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