Last updated: GDPR is the Y2K of digital marketing – in a good way

GDPR is the Y2K of digital marketing – in a good way


Remember the great Y2K scare of the late 1990’s?

For those who don’t recall, civilization was anticipated to grind to a halt at 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2000, as computers programmed to only recognize a two-digit year reset themselves to 1900 and crashed. Otherwise rational people were hoarding freeze-dried food and making plans to hide in the woods on New Year’s Eve 1999.

Though it caused quite a panic, Y2K is also heralded for bringing attention to how critical the role of the CIO was. Companies were just beginning to realize exactly how important e-commerce revenue was to their organizations, and they were desperate to assure that their websites would remain operating after the calendars flipped to double zeroes.

GDPR: An explainer

The European Union’s upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) could be the digital marketing equivalent of Y2K – in a good way.

Let me offer a quick recap on GDPR for those not fully up to speed.

GDPR: What it means

  • WHAT: GDPR gives extensive new rights to consumers regarding data protection and control over their personal information.
  • WHERE: Regulations apply to residents of the EU and to any organizations that process their data – regardless of where those organizations are based. In today’s global economy, most large organizations interact with EU residents, so GDPR effectively applies to all multinational businesses.
  • WHEN: GDPR takes effect on May 25, 2018. There is no “grandfather” clause – any organization storing personal information of EU residents is subject to penalties immediately. Speaking of penalties, GDPR packs a big punch: Fines can go as high as 4 percent or an organization’s global revenue or 20 million Euros, whichever is greater.
  • WHY: The EU is responding to growing complaints regarding repeated violations of privacy and trust, as well as security breaches that expose consumer data to hackers. It is their effort to tip power back to consumers.

So, what does GDPR have to do with Y2K? The disasters predicted in the late 1990’s never materialized, but not because the fear was unjustified. Rather, organizations around the world responded before the year 2000 with massive IT upgrades to root out Y2K bugs.

Being proactive matters.

The bright side

All the effort devoted to the prevention of the digital apocalypse heralded unintended and very positive results. The investment in new infrastructure and business processes unleashed a productivity surge that served as a foundation for economic gains in the 2000’s.

GDPR could boast similarly beneficial outcomes. Organizations investing in GDPR compliance will have a clear path to building trusted relationships with their online customers, while reducing their exposure to data theft.

Numerous surveys indicate consumers gravitate to businesses that respect their privacy and provide personalized experiences. In other words, GDPR is a cloud with a silver lining – the cost of preparing for May 25th can be greatly outweighed by longterm gains in customer retention and loyalty.

Lives and businesses are upended.
Learn how to get your org back on track HERE.

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