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How Data Privacy Laws Affect Email Marketing

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Email marketing campaigns used to be pretty straightforward: you collect contact information, upload it into a third-party tool like Mailchimp or Constant Contact, and send a message to your customers, prospects, or anyone you wanted to spam. Today, the enactment and enforcement of global data privacy laws like  Europe’s GDPR and  California’s CCPA have significantly restricted the ability for companies to collect and use data generated by individuals. Perhaps the greatest effect has been to restrict email marketing practices, which now must consider the concept of consent as outlined in each of these laws.

If you use email campaigns as part of your overall marketing strategy, you should get familiar with various data privacy laws that apply to your business; failing to do so could result in significant financial penalties and damage to your brand reputation.

What is a Data Privacy Law?

Data privacy laws are legislation that have been enacted by governments around the world with the intent of protecting individual rights regarding data privacy and security. These individuals can be your customers, employees, vendors or someone as casual as a visitor to your website. These laws generally outline rules regarding how organizations can collect and use individuals’ personal data (e.g. name, address, phone number, email address and IP address, among others), and what these organization must communicate to individuals regarding collection and use. Almost every aspect of online engagement, including email marketing, is covered by these data privacy laws, with the two most frequently discussed being GDPR and CCPA.

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing can be a cost-effective way to stay engaged with an audience that has expressed interest in your product or service by signing up for a newsletter or some other type of communication. Running a compliant email marketing campaign isn’t particularly difficult, but it requires that businesses avoid making some crucial mistakes.

Sending an email to someone might not seem like a violation of data privacy, but it could be if it is not done properly. Understanding the rules regarding the collection of email addresses, and providing recipients a way to unsubscribe from your email marketing list are crucial to not running afoul of data privacy laws.

How Does GDPR Affect Email Marketing?

GDPR is what is called an explicit consent or “opt-in” jurisdiction; meaning that companies must obtain the consent of anyone prior to contacting them via email. This can be accomplished by having a European individual click an “I Accept” button strictly for email communication on your site, however you cannot assume these website visitors have provided consent just by virtue of visiting your site or even by purchasing a product or service from you. Additionally, GDPR requires that companies demonstrate how consent was obtained and whether any consenting users have since opted out or unsubscribed from newsletters or other email marketing communications. Also, companies must provide individuals to delete, request and access the personal data collected by that company, among other rights.

How Does CCPA Affect Email Marketing?

CCPA is what is called an implied consent or “opt-out” jurisdiction; meaning that companies can assume the consent of anyone prior to contacting them via email, but must provide that individual a mechanism to opt-out of or unsubscribing from receiving emails. Additionally, data regarding the open rate and click-through rate of each individual user is considered personal information; if a user requests their data be removed, you must not only delete their email address from your list but also any data gleaned from their engagement with your email marketing campaign as well.

How Can I Make My Email Marketing Campaigns Compliant?

Data privacy laws are complex, and impossible to fully cover in a blog post, but we’re including five helpful tips on how you can avoid running afoul of consumer data privacy laws:

  1. Collect contact information properly. If you are collecting individual email addresses, clearly note that when users supply that information, they are consenting to being contacted by you via email. Data privacy laws vary around the globe, so you’ll need to have different consent mechanisms depending on what law applies to an individual user;
  2. Don’t collect more information than you intend to use. Data privacy laws generally require a legitimate business purpose or interest to collect data. Collecting data you don’t actually need to use could be considered a violation;
  3. Be transparent about data collection. If you’re not able to be transparent about what data you’re collecting and why, you’re going to run afoul of data privacy laws and also lose customer trust. Rather than bury language in a privacy policy that only an attorney can read, make this information easily accessible in plain language to anyone who might want to review it;
  4. Reduce the amount of data that you sell. Sharing user data with another company without explicit user content and a clear business purpose for doing so is likely to constitute a data privacy violation. Note that CCPA has an  extremely broad definition of the concept of “selling”, so even if you are not a tech company or data broker, you could be considered to be selling data; and
  5. Keep track of third-party service providers. Many data privacy laws require businesses to ensure any third-party service providers handling user data also adhere to the legal requirements laid out under the law. Just because someone else is providing you with a service, you may be liable for their noncompliance.

How Can Clym Help?

Clym provides a cost-effective, scalable and flexible platform to comply with CCPA, GDPR, and other laws as they continue to come online. Contact us today about how your startup can implement Clym to help manage your data privacy regulation compliance from a global perspective.