An EU official has stated firms will not have to gain explicit consent to process personal data for marketing under the proposed shake-up of data laws; a claim which has been pooh-poohed by some industry experts.
The fight against many of the proposals in the EU Data Protection Regulation has been long and hard, with the DMA claiming it could cost UK businesses up to £47bn.
By far the most onerous measure, however, has been the interpretation that marketers could be forced to make all of their data opt-in only; in one fell swoop rendering millions of data records – and many direct marketing businesses – obsolete.
Last month EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding hinted that marketing data would escape further restrictions. But, commenting on DecisionMarketing, Opt-4 boss Jenny Moseley – a former DMA chairman – was not convinced.
She said: “I don’t think opt-in is gone, I think it is still very much alive. Our take on the story is that Reding will leave legitimate interests alone in exchange for opt-in everywhere else. She was commenting on the rumours that legitimate interests would be wiped out completely by the ‘exceptional circumstances’ as quoted in the LIBE report.”
But according to a spokeswoman from the EU, there will be no change.
Speaking to Third Sector magazine, she said that under the existing data protection directive, consent was one of several criteria that could make the processing of personal data lawful. Another of these is when the person using the data has “legitimate interests” in doing so. The spokeswoman said this was used by the marketing industry and could continue to be used under the proposed changes.
“The commission has not proposed to change this in its data protection reform proposals,” she said. “Explicit consent is not mandatory for direct marketing under data protection directive 95/46/EC – consent is irrelevant in such cases. It will continue to be irrelevant.”
But she did add that it was important in the context of direct marketing to provide people with a right to opt-out of their data being used, as is currently the case.
One source said: “If this is true, it is surely one of the greatest days in the history of direct marketing, hundreds of thousands of people employed in the sector will be able to sleep soundly tonight.
“However, these things tend to have a nasty habit of coming back and biting us on the arse. At the moment, the situation is as clear as mud. If and when we get confirmation from the top, then we can raise a glass or two – or three. Until then, we should not give up the fight.”
Last week it emerged that the final vote on the proposals has been delayed until the end of May, giving MEPs more time to consider the new measures.
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