6 min read

Writen by Zlatko Delev

Posted on: October 18, 2023

Mastering GDPR for US Marketers:  Your Top 5 Questions Answered

Does GDPR apply to US marketers? What constitutes ‘personal data’? And what are the consequences of failing to comply with GDPR?

More US organizations are realizing that the way they collect, use and store the personal data of individuals is coming under increasing scrutiny. That’s true at home, where 13 states have now passed comprehensive data privacy laws.

And it’s true overseas, particularly in Europe, where the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the UK GDPR have provided the template for many US states’ protection measures.

Data privacy presents a major challenge for US marketers, who use personal data to target and personalize their campaigns. So in this post, we share the five GDPR-related questions we’re most frequently asked by US marketers.

1. Does GDPR Apply to US Marketers?

Yes. GDPR’s reach is global. If your marketing activities involve processing the personal data of EU residents, GDPR applies to you. If you process the data of UK residents, you are bound by the near identical UK GDPR, established when the UK left the EU.

It’s worth emphasizing that the regulation applies to EU and UK residents rather than citizens. A US citizen living in Paris will have their personal data protected by the GDPR.

If you’re uncertain as to whether GDPR applies to your marketing activities, it’s important to make sure rather than hope for the best, for the reasons we explore at 4. below. Talking to a specialist GDPR services provider can help you establish whether you are bound by GDPR and, if so, what measures to take.

2. What Constitutes Personal Data Under GDPR?

There’s a tendency for every marketer to think in terms of names and email addresses – the sort of details that might populate a spreadsheet of campaign targets. The reality, however, is that GDPR applies to any data which might be directly or indirectly used to identify an individual. That could be an email address. But it could also be an IP log, location data or a record of work times.

It’s possible that data which is not personal in nature becomes so when combined with another piece of data – and such circumstances would bring it within the remit of GDPR.

It’s also the case that context can play a role in determining whether data is personal or not. Depending on the type of data and the purpose to which it is put, something that might not constitute personal data in one scenario could become personal data in another.

It’s important for all US marketers to have a GDPR consultancy on call for instances where you’re unclear whether the data you are holding is personal or not.

3. How Can US Marketers Obtain Valid Consent Under GDPR?

For consent to be valid as defined by Article 7 of GDPR, it must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous.

We could produce a whole blog post on the intricacies of each of these, but they effectively mean that consent cannot be ‘bundled up’ with other requirements, you must be clear and transparent about which data you keep and why, and you must use clear language that aids everyone’s understanding. You must also provide an easy opt-out option.

Genuine, informed consent builds trust (as well as ensuring you meet your legal compliance requirements), but marketers do face a challenge in ensuring their subjective view of what qualifies as ‘freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous’ matches the view of data authorities.

This is where the GDPR services of an EU GDPR consultant can be priceless in providing an independent, objective view that can help you minimize risk.

4. What Are the Consequences of Non-Compliance for US Marketers?

The fines can be substantial, sometimes extremely so. For serious breaches, GDPR can impose fines of up to €20 million or 4% of global annual revenue. Such fines aren’t notional. The largest penalty to date ($1.3 billion) was handed to Meta.

The real cost, however, can be the fallout from such fines. As US citizens become increasingly concerned at the way their personal information is shared, so the risk of reputational damage and lost customer trust grows – risks that can be even harder to overcome than a heavy fine.

5. How Does GDPR Affect US Marketers’ Data Security Practices?

Complying with GDPR means implementing appropriate, robust security measures. It also means building a digital fortress around your customer’s trust. Encryption, regular security assessments, and incident response plans are your arsenal. Yet we regularly speak to marketers who know they should be doing something but are unsure what. Or they know what to do but are unsure of the level of depth to which their data protection practices should go.

Tapping into the expertise of a GDPR consultancy can help ensure you have the right measures in place, so you neither under nor over-engineer your data protection measures.

Treat GDPR as a Strategic Advantage

Navigating GDPR as a US marketer isn’t merely a legal obligation; it’s an opportunity to showcase your commitment to ethical marketing practices. By understanding and implementing these GDPR insights, you’re not just ensuring compliance – you’re building a foundation of trust and transparency with your audience.

Embrace GDPR with the support of expert GDPR services, and you turn compliance into a catalyst for a more customer-centric, secure, and successful marketing strategy.

Explore how our GDPR services can support you now, get data protection advice or, for questions about your next steps, and feel free to reach us anytime on LinkedIn or at [email protected].

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