Businesses stand accused of burying their heads in the sand over the impact of the proposed European data protection reforms after a DMA study showed that a third of firms are failing to prepare for the changes, despite a rise in industry-wide awareness of the issue.
The DMA survey of 150 senior agency, supplier and client-side practitioners revealed that preparing for upcoming reforms is a priority for just two in three (67%) businesses.
This is despite industry-wide awareness of the EU Data Protection Regulation climbing from one in two practitioners in January 2013 to more than two in three (69%) in February 2014.
The legislation is currently stuttering its way through Brussels, although most commentators still believe it will be passed by the end of 2014.
Of those polled, more than nine in 10 (95%) believe that the EU Regulation will be weighted unfairly against the interests of businesses, and more than four in five (81%) predict that changing public attitudes to data privacy will make it harder to make direct contact with consumers over the next 12 months.
Chris Combemale, the executive director of the DMA, warned businesses that fail to prepare now for data protection changes will be left behind their competitors.
He said: “The potentially damaging EU Data Protection Regulation is bearing down fast on us, and widespread concerns about rapidly shifting consumer attitudes to data privacy should be ringing alarm bells in the board room of every business that’s involved with one-to-one communications.
“Brands will soon have to work harder than ever before to communicate one-to-one with consumers and must offer compelling reasons to become engaged and to share their personal information. Only the companies who get to grips with how the data protection landscape is changing will be successful in the future.”
His remarks were echoed by Nick Banbury, data strategy partner at direct and digital agency Tangible: “If the proposals go through, then businesses will have ask all customers for explicit permission to use their personal data for activities currently taken for granted. Recent news about data breaches, theft, scams and the NSA, means that consumers are much more protective of their data, and gaining this permission isn’t going to be easy.
“If this issue is unaddressed and the legislation isn’t pre-empted, then by the time it’s ratified into law consumers and businesses alike will be confronted by serious data issues. Companies need to start thinking differently about customer data, and realise that access to it is a privilege not a right. Companies who can demonstrate that customers will get real value in return for their data will be the ones who thrive under the new rules.”
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