Magazine article Marketing

Centre Stage

Magazine article Marketing

Centre Stage

Article excerpt

As the European Parliament takes a step closer to tightening the EU's laws on data and privacy, marketers must prepare themselves for stricter regulation, writes Alex Brownsell.

On 12 March, members of the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour (621 votes to 10) of updating the continent's data-protection regulation. It is the second milestone in a three-stage journey for the legislation, which promises to tighten Europe's near-20-year-old data and privacy rules and, in the process, make marketers' lives a whole lot tougher.

Critics warn the regulations include several 'anti-business' measures of concern to brands. These cover the so-called 'right to be forgotten', allowing users to demand data relating to them be deleted from the records, and curbs on profiling, namely the ability to personalise online experiences by recommending products based on someone's previous behaviour.

Viviane Reding, the European Union's justice commissioner, says: 'This reform is a necessity, and now it is irreversible.'

While the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is confident that the final stage of law-making, the Council of Ministers' version of the regulation, will smooth out its 'worst excesses', it acknowledges brands can expect stringent tightening of data and privacy rules sometime around early 2017.

'Customers really value the innovations that data-driven marketing provides, demonstrated by the way they purchase goods,' argues Chris Combemale, executive director of the DMA. 'The growth of ecommerce and mcommerce is irrefutable. But the legislation has some aspects which are problematic for continuing the development of this fast growth-point of the economy.'

At once both nebulous and painfully complex, privacy is becoming perhaps the single most important issue facing the marketing industry - not least because of the EUR100m penalties the EU is keen to introduce.

Visitors to this year's SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, hoping to immerse themselves in all manner of gadget geekery, may have been disappointed to find that, with video-link keynote speeches by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on the fight against the 'adversarial internet', privacy was the talk of the town. Even Google chairman Eric Schmidt took to the stage to proclaim his company as a champion of data privacy, urging the audience to 'fight for (their) privacy or lose it'. …

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