Users are becoming more and more concerned about who is gathering their data and what is being done with it. Governments have responded with legislation protecting users’ data. This can put digital marketers and businesses in a difficult position; how can digital marketers and businesses gather information about their customers safely? In this blog post, we’ll discuss privacy regulations, what these mean for digital marketing, and what marketers can do to gather the right information safely.
Data Privacy Regulations Today
Responding to customer concerns about data privacy, government agencies worldwide have passed data privacy regulations to protect users’ data. Two of the most well-known regulations include the CCPA in California and the GDPR in the European Union. As many digital marketers and online businesses predicted, these rules represented a greater shift towards online privacy and data protection. As of 2023, nine more American states have passed similar laws similar to California’s.
The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
The California Consumer Privacy Act or CCPA, which went into effect in 2020, gives California residents a number of important rights about their data, including the following:
- – The right to know what personal information businesses collect about them
- – The right to have that information deleted, if desired
- – The right to opt-out of the sale or sharing of their personal information
- – The right to exercise CCPA rights without discrimination
- – The right to correct inaccurate information, if desired
- – The right to limit the use and disclosure of information
The last two rights in this list were added by Proposition 24, the CPRA, which amended the CCPA. The CCPA applies to for-profit businesses that operate in California and meet any of the following criteria:
- – Have annual gross revenues over $25 million
- – Collect personal information from more than 100,000 California residents annually
- – Derive at least 50% of their annual revenue from selling California residents’ personal information
This law was landmark legislation, and was among the first that gave users more power over their personal data and required businesses to be more transparent about how they use and share that information.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
The General Data Protection Regulation or the GDPR, which was enacted by the European Union in 2018, is similar to the CCPA in many ways, but also makes stricter requirements. Under the GDPR, EU citizens have the following rights:
- – The right to lawful, fair and transparent data processing and storage
- – The right to know what data is collected and how it is used
- – The right to have only strictly necessary information collected and used
- – The right to have data accurately recorded and kept up-to-date
- – The right to have data stored and processed securely and confidentially
- – The data controller is responsible and accountable for upholding these rules
The GDPR applies to all residents of the European Union and all businesses who collect data of EU residents. This means pretty much any multinational online business must adhere to GDPR regulations. The GDPR also puts more emphasis on businesses’ accountability and responsibilities to keep their customers’ data safe and secure. The rule also limits the situations where businesses are allowed to collect data, and restricts data collection to only necessary data.
Additional Data Privacy Regulations
As of 2023, 24 states have passed or are considering data privacy legislation. New York alone is considering nine different, relevant rules. In a recent blog post and email to advertisers, Google emphasized the importance of national, uniform privacy regulations in America. A recent Pew research poll found that 75% of Americans support such legislation.
Many of the current data privacy laws passed or being considered are similar to the CCPA and GDPR. In general, complying with these rules will help digital marketers and businesses comply with future regulations.
How to Comply with Privacy Regulations
To comply with privacy regulations, site owners must provide certain disclosures and protections related to the collection, use, and sale of personal information of customers. Digital marketers who manage this information for businesses or use third-party services to gather or manage data must be careful about which services they use and how they are using customers’ data.
The following are a few general considerations for complying with privacy regulations. This is not legal advice, nor should it be considered as such. If you have concerns about privacy regulation compliance, always consult with an attorney.
- – Transparency: Site owners must provide specific disclosures about what personal information they collect, how that information is used, and how it is shared.
- – Right to Know and Right to Delete: Users have the right to know what personal information is being collected about them and to request that it be deleted.
- – Opt-Out of Sale: Users have the right to opt-out of the sale or sharing of their personal information.
- – Non-Discrimination: Site owners may not discriminate against users who exercise their rights, such as by charging them different prices or denying them access to products or services.
- – Consent: Site owners must obtain clear and affirmative consent from users before collecting or processing their personal data.
- – Correction: Users can, when desired, correct and update the information collected about them.
- – Data Protection Officer: Some site owners may need to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO) to ensure GDPR compliance and serve as a point of contact for data subjects and regulatory authorities.
Overall, transparency, accountability, consent, and correction are key when it comes to data collection and management. You should be upfront and honest about how you’re using customers’ or visitors’ data, and give them a way to delete or correct the information collected. Keeping these principles in mind will make it easier for you to adapt, as needed, as regulations change.
Can Digital Marketers Collect Users’ Data and Comply with Data Privacy Regulations?
Data is essential to customizing marketing messages, making connections with customers, targeting the right messages to the right people, and more. Later in the post, we’ll discuss how you might use this data safely, while still getting value from it. At this point, let’s take a look at a few strategies that digital marketing professionals can use to gather user data while still complying with privacy regulations:
- – Obtain explicit user consent: To gather the data you need, ask users for their consent to collect their data, explain how the data will be used, and provide an easy way for users to opt out.
- – Use cookie banners: Display cookie banners or pop-ups that clearly explain what types of cookies are being used, why they are being used, and how users can manage their cookie preferences. Note that these types of pop-ups will not affect your SEO.
- – Limit data collection: Collect only the data that is necessary for a specific purpose, and avoid collecting sensitive personal information, such as medical or financial data, unless absolutely necessary.
- – Provide transparency: Honesty and transparency is always a good policy. Provide clear and transparent information about what data is being collected, how it is being used, and who it is being shared with.
- – Anonymize data: Anonymize user data so that it cannot be linked back to individual users. This will give you helpful demographic information about your customers or users in general, without linking to a particular person.
- – Use third-party vendors responsibly: Third-party vendors can simplify your job significantly, but only if they do their jobs responsibly. Work with third-party vendors that clearly show how they keep data secure.
- – Regularly review and update privacy policies: Review and update privacy policies regularly to ensure they are up-to-date with changing privacy regulations and accurately reflect the data collection practices of the organization.
By implementing these strategies, digital marketing professionals can strike a balance between collecting the data they need to be effective, while still respecting user privacy and complying with applicable privacy regulations.
What Data to Collect
The most valuable information to collect about a website visitor depends on the goals and objectives of your digital marketing strategy. However, there are some common types of information that are often considered valuable to collect, including:
- – Contact information: Collecting a visitor’s contact information, such as their name and email address, can be valuable for building a subscriber list for email marketing campaigns or for building a rapport with leads and customers.
- – Demographic information: Demographic information, such as age, gender, location, and interests, can provide insights into the target audience and help tailor marketing messages to their specific needs and preferences.
- – Behavior and engagement data: Collecting data on visitors’ behavior and engagement on your website, such as pages visited, time spent on the site, and click-through rates, can provide insights into how users interact with your site and what content or products they find most interesting.
- – Purchase history: For websites using ecommerce, collecting data on a visitor’s purchase history can provide insights into their buying behavior and help tailor product recommendations or promotions to their specific interests.
In general, the most valuable information to collect is data that can be used to improve the website’s user experience, tailor marketing messages to the target audience, and ultimately drive conversions and sales. Digital marketers can collect this information while still complying with privacy regulations and keeping customers’ and visitors’ data safe.
Tools to Collect Data from Online Visitors
There are several third-party tools that digital marketers and businesses can use to collect information about online visitors while still complying with internet privacy regulations.
Here are some examples:
- – Google Analytics: Google Analytics is a widely-used web analytics tool that allows digital marketers to track website traffic, user behavior, and other metrics. Google Analytics has recently updated their system to protect, anonymize, and compile web visitors’ data, which gives digital marketers access to important insights without using data on any one person.
- – Crazy Egg: Crazy Egg is a heat mapping tool that allows digital marketers to visualize user behavior on their website. Crazy Egg provides tools to help users comply with privacy regulations, including anonymization of IP addresses and the ability to exclude certain pages from tracking.
- – Qualaroo: Qualaroo is a user feedback and survey tool that allows digital marketers to collect information directly from website visitors. Qualaroo provides a range of features to help users comply with privacy regulations, including the ability to obtain user consent, anonymize responses, and delete user data upon request.
- – TrustArc: TrustArc is a privacy management platform that provides a range of tools to help digital marketers comply with privacy regulations, including GDPR and CCPA. TrustArc provides features such as cookie consent management, user preference management, and compliance reporting.
These are just a few examples of third-party tools that digital marketers can use to collect information about online visitors while still complying with internet privacy regulations. It’s important to carefully evaluate any tools before implementing them to ensure they comply with applicable privacy regulations and meet the organization’s privacy and security standards.
What You Can Do With This Data
You may wonder if gathering customer information makes sense at all. Why bother navigating these privacy regulations? Customer and web visitor data is important, and not collecting essential information puts your digital marketing strategy behind your competitors.
These are a few examples of things that digital marketers can do with the information they collect to sell more products, improve website traffic, or improve conversions:
- – Personalize marketing messages: By analyzing user data, digital marketers can identify user preferences, behaviors, and interests. This information can be used to personalize marketing messages, such as email campaigns, social media ads, and website content, to increase engagement and drive conversions.
- – Improve website design and usability: User data can provide insights into how users interact with a website, including which pages they visit, how long they spend on each page, and where they drop off. This information can be used to improve website design and usability, making it easier for users to navigate the site and find what they’re looking for.
- – Optimize website content: User data can also be used to optimize website content, such as product descriptions and blog posts. By analyzing user behavior, digital marketers can identify which types of content are most popular and which types of content drive the most engagement and conversions.
- – Connect with clients: To engage directly with customers through B2C emails or build rapport with B2B emails, you need a way to contact your customers in the first place. Information about the customers’ job title, the company they work for, and what problems they face can help your business make significant connections.
- – Retargeting: Retargeting is a marketing technique that involves showing ads to users who have already visited a website or engaged with a marketing campaign. User data can be used to identify users who are most likely to convert, and retargeting ads can be used to keep those users engaged and increase the likelihood of a conversion.
Privacy Regulations and the Effects on Digital Marketing
These internet privacy rules can have a significant impact on digital marketing. Overall, these laws aim to protect the privacy of individuals and ensure that businesses are held accountable for how they use and share personal information. It’s still possible for digital marketing professionals to gather important data while keeping individuals’ data anonymous and safe. It’s important for marketing professionals to stay up-to-date on these rules and ensure that their marketing practices comply with the latest regulations.