Given that stories about the EU Data Protection Regulation are leaking out of Brussels with the regularity of a man scoffing All Bran, you could be forgiven for losing track about how the new laws are progressing.
Suffice to say, unlike the regular bulletins, the Commission itself seems to be suffering from a bad case of constipation.
So far there have been nearly 3,000 amendments made to the original proposals yet we are no nearer to finding out whether the main issue which will affect the DM industry – the subject of consent for marketing data – has been resolved.
Even the Information Commissioner’s Office appears none the wiser. Asked at a recent Data IQ Now event whether DMers should be preparing for an era of “explicit consent” – and by that we mean not just a simple tick-box opt-out but a tick-box opt-in – ICO business and industry group manager Dave Evans said: “I was hoping no-one was going to ask that.”
In some ways, you have to admire his honesty; in other ways, when even the UK data watchdog doesn’t know what’s happening, how is the humble marketer supposed to know?
Go to the horse’s mouth – the EU – and you will be told the Regulation is not seeking to change the way firms gain consent to process personal data for marketing. But can they be trusted to keep to their word? If so, what’s all the fuss about? And, more importantly, why won’t the ICO confirm it?
The truth of the matter is, no-one really knows what’s going on. There are even suspicions that EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding is lulling firms into a false sense of security and, once passed, hell will be unleashed on DMers.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit changes to data legislation could never be described as the most exciting subject to pass over your desk each day. And I’m not alone; a recent survey by the DMA exposed widespread ignorance of the whole issue among many of the top executives in this industry.
There are even some people who believe it may never get passed, arguing that with the next European elections looming in May 2014, it could be a tall order to get agreement.
So where does that leave us and what exactly should marketers be doing?
One school of thought is that the best hope we’ve got to ensure the proposed Regulation doesn’t hit UK marketers is to pray the Conservatives win the next general election.
According to this argument, the future of this £15bn industry rests on David Cameron securing a withdrawal from Europe, meaning the UK won’t have to adhere to the new laws.
If you feel comfortable with that, so be it. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time to look at how you currently handle your customer data. Are you following best practice already or are you flying by the seat of your pants?
The ICO maintains the new laws will come, eventually. Whether that’s this year, next year or the year after, do you really want to rely on David Cameron to save your arse? Or do you want to keep your destiny in your own hands?
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