Jan 25

GDPR and marketing: a guide for businesses

As a data protection professional, it’s important to understand the specific challenges that marketing departments in organizations face when it comes to compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most significant data protection issues that marketing departments need to be aware of, as well as strategies for avoiding and mitigating these risks.

One of the biggest challenges for marketing departments is, depending on the country and whether they serve B2B or B2C, to obtain valid consent for processing personal data. If consent is required it needs to fulfill the high standard under the GDPR. This means that the individual needs to give a clear affirmative action based on an informed decision about how their personal data will be processed. Organizations must present clear, concise information about how the personal data will be used.

To avoid this issue, organizations should take the time to review and update their consent processes to ensure that they are GDPR-compliant. This might include revising privacy policies to provide detailed information about data processing activities, and providing clear opt-in mechanisms for individuals to give their consent. Additionally, mechanisms must be provided for individuals to easily opt out of marketing communication. This is commonly done by including an ‘unsubscribe’ link in the bottom of the emails. Organizations should regularly review and update their existing data processing activities to ensure that they are still in line with GDPR requirements.

Marketing departments should also be cautious of how they obtain prospective customers’ information. Often companies rely on buying customer lists from third parties. It is crucial to do proper due diligence of such vendors and how they obtained this information since using prospect lists that were collected in a non-compliant way will render the whole follow-up processing by companies unlawful. It is advisable to also keep track of which prospects were obtained through such lists versus the ones your organization obtained itself. This helps in case it turns out that the prospect lists cannot be relied on in a lawful way. Organizations should be aware that individuals need to be informed of their personal data being processed at the latest within one month of obtaining the list. This fair processing statement must include all the necessary information outlined in Art. 14 GDPR. If a communication is made to the individuals before that time limit, they should be informed at that point.

Another key issue for marketing departments is ensuring that personal data is accurate and up-to-date. Under GDPR, organizations have a responsibility to ensure that personal data is accurate, and must take steps to rectify or erase inaccurate data. This can be particularly challenging for marketing departments, as they often rely on large amounts of data obtained from a variety of sources.

To mitigate this risk, organizations should implement robust data quality and accuracy processes, such as regular data audits and reviews, and invest in technology to help identify and correct inaccuracies. Additionally, organizations should train their marketing teams to understand the importance of data accuracy and to be vigilant in identifying and correcting any inaccuracies.

A further challenge for marketing departments is the risk of data breaches. Under GDPR, organizations are required to report data breaches to the relevant supervisory authority within 72 hours of becoming aware of the breach, and in some cases, must also notify affected individuals. This means that organizations must have robust systems in place to detect and respond to data breaches quickly and effectively.

To avoid data breaches, organizations should invest in security measures such as encryption and firewalls, and implement regular security audits and testing. Additionally, organizations should train their marketing teams to be aware of common security threats, such as phishing attempts, and to know how to respond in the event of a data breach.

Organizations must be aware of the significant fines that can be imposed by supervisory authorities for non-compliance with GDPR. Organizations that fail to comply with GDPR can face fines of up to 4% of their annual global revenue or €20 million, whichever is higher.

It is important for organizations to take GDPR compliance seriously and to ensure that their marketing teams understand the risks and consequences of non-compliance. This may include investing in training, technology and resources to ensure compliance with GDPR.

In addition to the issues mentioned above, there are a few other data protection issues that marketing departments should be aware of:

  • Data retention: GDPR also places limits on the amount of time that organizations can retain personal data. This means that marketing departments must have a clear data retention policy in place and ensure that they are not holding on to personal data for longer than is necessary for the specific marketing purposes.
  • International data transfers: If a marketing department works with third-party vendors or partners located outside of the EU, it must ensure that these transfers of data comply with GDPR. This may include implementing standard contractual clauses or seeking approval from the relevant supervisory authority.
  • Data protection impact assessments (DPIAs): GDPR requires organizations to conduct DPIAs when they process personal data in a way that is likely to result in a high risk to individuals’ rights and freedoms. This may include new marketing campaigns or the use of new technologies.
  • Privacy by design: GDPR requires that organizations take a proactive approach to data protection and implement “privacy by design” principles. This includes considering data protection risks when developing new products or services, and implementing appropriate security measures to mitigate these risks.

Overall, marketing departments should be aware of the specific GDPR requirements that apply to their activities and should work closely with their organization’s data protection team to ensure compliance. Additionally, it’s important to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in data protection laws, as these can change over time.

In conclusion, GDPR brings significant challenges for marketing departments in organizations. By understanding these challenges, organizations can take steps to mitigate the risks and avoid non-compliance. By ensuring the use of the appropriate legal basis, providing an opt-out mechanism, ensuring data accuracy, protecting personal data from breaches, and being aware of the penalties for non-compliance, organizations can protect themselves and the individuals whose data they process.

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