GPDR: How to Keep Your Email Marketing in Compliance with the GDPR

Since the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) in 2018, marketers face a new challenge: how to keep their email marketing in compliance with the GDPR, while continuing to grow their email lists and generate revenue.

What is the GDPR?

The GDPR is a regulation that establishes guidelines for the collection, use, and disclosure of personal data (also known as “personal information” or “PI”). The GDPR applies to any organization that processes personal data of individuals in the European Union (EU).

Under the GDPR, an individual has the right to:

  • access to their personal data
  • correct their data
  • delete their data
  • object to how their data is processed
  • ask for the personal data to be transferred to another party
  • right to be forgotten

An organization must comply with the GDPR to have an acceptable level of data privacy. Businesses that fail to comply face serious penalties, including hefty fines and even permanent closure.

Why should marketers care about the GDPR?

The GDPR requires that marketers collect, use, and disclose personal data only in accordance with “reasonable standards” set forth in the regulation. Reasonable standards include the following:

  • data minimization
  • the right to be informed
  • appropriate consent
  • transparency
  • security
  • authentication
  • erasure
  • data portability

What does the GDPR mean for email marketing?

Marketers generally collect personal data (email addresses) of individuals when they participate in a marketing campaign via email, text message, or other digital means. Depending on the type of marketing campaign, participants may be asked to provide their name, phone number, postal code, or other identifiers. In most cases, participants are not required to provide any identifying information, but they often do so voluntarily to receive marketing emails from businesses they love. In light of the GDPR, should I continue collecting and using personal data for email marketing?

Marketers must adhere to the GDPR when designing email campaigns, gathering data, using databases, and exporting files. The following are seven tips for keeping your email marketing in compliance with the GDPR:

1. Understand the GDPR

To start, it is essential that marketers understand the basics of the GDPR. What are personal data? Why are they so special? What is the purpose of the GDPR? How is the GDPR different from other data privacy regulations?

Answering these questions will help marketers create data privacy policies and adhere to the regulations when they design and send emails. Adhering to GDPR standards does not necessarily mean that every email will be compliant, but it definitely means that every email campaign that is created with these standards in mind is more likely to be.

2. Design email templates with data minimization in mind

Email marketing is a popular way to communicate with customers and prospects. Marketers often use email to promote products and services, provide news and updates, drive traffic to their websites, and establish relationships with their subscribers. To continue, designing email templates with data minimization in mind means understanding how much information can I gather about my subscribers without overstepping my bounds?

What does data minimization entail?

Data minimization means that marketers should only collect, store, and use the personal data that is necessary to attain the data’s stated purpose. Furthermore, to the greatest extent possible, marketers should eliminate any unnecessary collection of personal data. For example, if a business wants to collect emails in order to make sales, but also wants to collect phone numbers for targeted advertising, they should not collect both sets of data. Doing so would be unnecessary and could potentially violate the GDPR. However, if a business collects data about its customers for marketing purposes and for internal analysis, they should not remove any identifying information, such as the customer’s name.

How can I ensure my emails are GDPR-compliant?

Designing email templates with data minimization in mind is one way to ensure that your emails are GDPR-compliant. Another way is to use a CRM tool that automatically tracks and removes all unneeded personal data from your records. A CRM tool that adheres to the GDPR standards will be able to help you avoid potential GDPR issues.

3. Collect personal data legally

To begin, it is important to remember that the GDPR grants individuals the right to be forgotten. It is also important to note that this right only applies to data that is processed after the GDPR comes into effect on May 25, 2018, and before October 21, 2022. So, if you are processing personal data and are unsure whether or not you are in compliance with the GDPR, you must stop collecting data until you have conducted an assessment or obtained a legal opinion.

What does the right to be forgotten mean for marketers?

The right to be forgotten means that individuals have the right to ask that the personal data they provide be erased from a business’ records. This right applies to marketing data that is collected via digital means (e.g., email, SMS, and social media). The data can be removed completely or truncated so that it can no longer be associated with the individual. In some cases, businesses may be required to securely destroy the data.

The GDPR does not specify a time period for which marketers must retain personal data or conduct assessments. However, the recommendation is that data be maintained for seven years from the date of collection.

4. Keep personal data private and secure

It is a common occurrence for businesses to share personal data about their customers with other companies. This sharing usually occurs for legal purposes (e.g., credit approvals, debt collection, marketing, and advertising). One way to protect personal data is via the use of encryption.

Encryption is the process of taking data and scrambling it so that only the intended recipient can read it. It is generally used to protect sensitive information, such as credit cards, social security numbers, and bank account information. When data is encrypted, it is known as “locked” or “secure”. Once a message is encrypted it cannot be read by anyone else, not even the recipient.

To continue, keeping personal data private and secure entails taking several steps. First, ensure that all employees, contractors, and service providers who have access to personal data have a good understanding of how to protect it. Second, implement internal policies and procedures to ensure that personal data is handled properly. Third, ensure that encryption is used whenever possible to protect the privacy of customers.

5. Identify the purpose of personal data before you collect it

It is a common occurrence for businesses to collect personal data via email solicitations or marketing campaigns. When individuals provide their email address or other personal data to receive information about products and services, they are generally under the assumption that the data will be used for a specific, identified purpose.

However, in a large number of cases, personal data is collected and used for purposes that have not been identified by the data subject. This happened because businesses did not adequately identify the purpose of the data before they collected it. This also means that individuals could not specify further uses for their data if they did not know the purpose for which the data was being collected. The GDPR requires marketers to specify the purpose of personal data before it is collected.

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