By Dave Stevens
Have you ever had a conversation with an MEP?
I had an opportunity to do so yesterday and in between complaining about how busy he was, how unappreciated he was, and the lack of feedback he was receiving from his constituents, he told me that we marketers should pay the EU more attention. There’s a lot of legislation proposed for implementation over the next few years that will have a bearing on our world – including a big proposal around data protection.
Interest aroused, I decided to take a look. A Google search took me to the European Commission website at www.europa.eu. A search for data protection brought up a massive 42, 753 documents to work through. No wonder MEPs are getting little feedback; potential critics are probably still working their way through the source material to pass comment.
Let me save you the trouble. The key link is here:- http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/12/46&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en. The proposals listed are designed to save businesses some E2.3bn a year and talk about such apparently worthy ends as giving people more access to their own data and the right to have data deleted where a supplier has no legitimate grounds for retaining it.
But the devil is in the detail – in this case the 54 page directive that you can download at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:52012PC0010:en:NOT.
The directive takes the view that all customer data held by businesses is the same. It is not. For a start there is personal factual data about customers covering such things as date of birth and e-mail address – this is the information that customers want protection for. But there is a mass of data that businesses collect about things that actually make all our lives easier – for example preference data where customers state likes and dislikes. Increased regulation here is actually unhelpful – and I don’t believe the vast majority of customers actually want it. For example, think of the value that customers get when a company (perhaps a music sharing site or a retailer like Amazon) is able to tell them what else they might be interested in based upon their own selections to date. This guidance is only possible because of the storage and use of customer preference data.
And then there’s the apparent cost-saving that these regulations will enable. I wonder if the billions of euros saved will be off-set by the costs of re-training staff, enhancing IT systems, and re-issuing of erms and conditions?
Maybe all marketers should get to know their local MEP after all – to provide feedback on these proposals?