7 Misconceptions About the New EU Privacy Regulations

by Eloqua on May 25, 2011 in Digital Marketing

Today, May 25th, is the day that all member states of the European Union are expected to enact region’s new privacy directive, which requires businesses to get explicit permission to track online users’ behaviors. Some might say it’s doomsday for cookies. But, like other very recent end-of-the-world predictions, the day will probably come and go without much fanfare.

Nevertheless, the new directive does mean changes for marketers in the EU. With that in mind, we thought we’d clear up some of the common misperceptions around the new regulations.

This creates a uniform privacy law across the entire European market!

Nope. While the directive is to be carried out by each of the EU’s 27 member states, it gives a lot of discretion to those individual countries on how to implement and enforce those laws. In reality, most of those nations haven’t complied with the directive yet, with only Denmark, Estonia and the UK putting something into place as of the writing of this post.

This came out of nowhere!

Well, not exactly. While the news about the directive has been somewhat muted, these regulations have been in the works for a while now. The directive was actually passed in 2009.

This makes it impossible to collect data!

These new regulations are not about banning any form of tracking. It’s about getting permission from people first. Companies now have to request the ability to drop cookies and similar software on folks’ browsers. In some cases, countries will likely allow your browser security controls to obtain consent either in the form of accepting or blocking cookies. Marketers need to promise that in exchange for permission to collect some information on buyers’ preferences, they will deliver relevant, valuable content in return…then keep that promise.

This totally upends my email marketing structure!

It shouldn’t. Smart companies don’t spam people’s email inboxes. It’s already the law in the EU to request permission to reach people via email, so you should already have some form opt-in status for your email list. Website tracking and email delivery are usually handled by separate systems.

This only impacts organizations in the EU!

No one gets off that easy. In reality, if you do business – as in market or advertise to any citizen of the EU – you need to comply with the law and get opt-in consent to drop cookies on a person’s browser, even if your company is located elsewhere. Companies anywhere can be subject to fines for failing to comply.

This is totally unprecedented!

While the EU directive is more stringent than regulations currently in place in the US, it’s not like no other country has similar laws in place. Germany already requires companies to get explicit permission from individuals to sell their personal data or use it for any marketing purposes.

This caught all vendors off guard!

Though there’s some evidence that some technology providers were not ready for this law, there are vendors that have prepared for this day. Eloqua gives European clients the ability to work in “Strict Mode,” enabling clients to automate the process of gaining opt-in consent and updating databases with prospects’ opt-in status.

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Is your company prepared for these tougher regulations?

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