Have you noticed that almost every website you visit now asks you to accept the site’s terms and conditions before you even begin browsing?
This not-so-subtle change is all thanks to the GDPR, or Global Data Protection Regulation, which took effect at the end of May this year.
But what exactly is the GDPR? And should you be concerned with it with regard to your online SMS service?
This guide will answer those questions to help you understand what’s really going on and help you stay compliant.
To start, let’s begin with everything you need to know about the GDPR.
What is the Global Data Protection Regulation?
The European Union already created a set of regulations aimed at protecting the personal information provided from customers to brands.
But with the recent Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data breach came the realization that even these strict controls on data protection didn’t offer enough for consumers, according to the EU.
The reason for this gap in coverage has to do specifically with the rise of mobile devices. When the initial regulations were created, there just wasn’t as much mobile usage and data collection as there is today.
So the GDPR was updated to adjust for these recent issues and the changing environment.
The new guidelines were then set in motion on May 25, 2018. With the new regulations, companies must now disclose to customers what they’re doing with their personal information.
The GDPR also gives consumers a right to see where this information is being used.
Customers can then choose to update their information or remove it from these databases altogether, which gives consumers more control over how their data is being used and stored.
Furthermore, businesses must be able to justify why this information is being collected, in addition to how it’s being used.
What Information is the GDPR Concerned With?
The short answer: personal data.
So a customer’s name, phone number, IP address, location information and username are all considered examples of the type of data that must be protected under this updated law.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Other types of data, such as a customer’s political preference, sexual orientation and current health information must be kept protected.
How to Stay GDPR Compliant
Brands operating in Europe or targeting European customers, even if the company resides outside of the EU zone, must take extra precautions to stay compliant with the GDPR.
First, customers must opt-in to transferring their data over to your digital hands. The language must be clear and simple so they know exactly what they’re getting into.
Another key factor here includes how that data is transferred: it must be done using a secured FTP transfer to ensure the data cannot be hacked during this movement.
On top of that, brands are only allowed to ask for the information they need, and nothing more.
This means opt-in forms must be stripped down to only the essentials.
Finally, consumers must be able to delete their information whenever they want.
And when a customer opts out of your communications, their personal data must also be removed from your database instead of sitting there until eternity.
Inevitably, the next questions to come up here include:
- Should you be concerned about the GDPR if your business operates outside of Europe?
- What about if you are using an online SMS service?
This next section will address those questions specifically.
Here’s How the GDPR Affects Your Online SMS Service
If you’re targeting European customers, or selling in Europe, you must have a GDPR plan in place.
For companies found out of compliance, the fines can amount to 20 million Euros, or 4% of annual revenues, whichever is larger.
But what about companies outside of this category?
It’s actually still in your best interest to remain in compliance with the GDPR.
You may not be targeting European customers, but thanks to the world wide web, that doesn’t mean they can’t find your website and subsequently opt-in.
When this happens, GDPR compliance becomes a requirement — not an option.
Even still, if you think the chances of this happening are slim, consider the fact that this extra layer of security protects your customers and builds trust.
If they know you’re taking the extra steps to keep their data safe, your customers will be more likely to opt-in, which increases your chances of them doing so.
On the other hand, do the opposite and let your stance on data protection become lax and you may create distrust in your privacy-minded customers.
Plus, since legislators are in the process of figuring out if their own version of a GDPR is needed for American-based companies, you may end up having to do this down the line anyway.
While it seems like more work now, it could save you countless hours later simply by taking a more proactive approach.
And if you’re using an online SMS service to send mass text alerts, your customers must still opt-in to your list, which means the same data protection would be required whether you’re adding them to an email or text list.
As you can see, it’s far better to be safe than sorry here.
So to do this, be sure your opt-in language is clear and concise and gives users the reasons why you’re asking for their information.
You should also give your customers the ability to opt-out and have their data completely deleted from your database whenever they want.
This may seem counterintuitive since you’ll lose the ability to ever touch base with those customers again, but if those people wanted to stay customers, they would have done so.
Don’t waste your time (and jeopardize your engagement rates) on people who aren’t interested; focus your attention on those who are.
And remember, just because someone’s opted out, doesn’t mean it’s permanent.
True customers will come back. Any who don’t only help you further refine your list of people who actually want to hear from you (and open and read your mass text alerts).
Follow the GDPR or Face Heavy Fines
Companies operating in Europe and targeting European consumers must be and stay in compliance with the GDPR — not just to avoid the heavy fines, but to also build trust with your customers.
Even if your business doesn’t currently market to European consumers, it still pays to add this extra layer of security so there are no issues on your end if you happen to have one opt in to your online SMS service.
Plus, your customers all over the world will appreciate your extra care for their personal data.
You may even see American-based regulations in the next upcoming months reflect these sentiments, so it’s better to get ahead of the curve now.
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