There were those that predicted the apocalypse and those who foresaw the death of targeted marketing, but six months on from the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is the landscape really a different place?

From Facebook to British Airways, high profile data breaches have certainly changed how the public view the security of their data. Coupled with the Cambridge Analytica data-harvesting scandal from earlier this year, and it’s safe to say that how personal data is handled, who has access to it, and what it can be used for are under greater scrutiny than ever before.

What is GDPR?

Who remembers being inundated with emails from brands begging you to stay? That was GDPR. From brands you deal with on a daily basis, to that gym membership you had for one day three years ago, every company that held personal data was required to ask customers to opt-in to having data stored. Plainly put, GDPR overhauled the way businesses process, handle and collect personal data. Following implementation on 25 May this year, the European Union initiated regulation became the world’s strongest protection rule.

So what has changed in the last six months? And have the predictions of the post-GDPR landscape come to fruition?

Marketing will be turned on its head

Instead of relying only on targeted advertising efforts, marketers have been forced to rethink their strategies. Because of this, personalisation in marketing has grown in popularity, which has seen an increase in relevant and meaningful messages in your newsfeed. Since GDPR became enforceable, the number of third-party cookies found on news websites in Europe has declined by 22%, according to a study by Reuters Institute, meaning marketers really have changed the way they track consumers.

Targeted email campaigns will be a thing of the past

While GDPR restricted who could save your data and for how long, targeted emails are still going strong. How did brands get around this hurdle? Now many will offer an incentive to sign you up to their newsletter such as 10% off your first order. Little, it would seem, has changed.

A rise in data breach complaints and people ‘opting out’

The regulation offers consumers the choice to opt out of marketing efforts or to have their data stored when visiting a website, as well as greater ease to complain about the unethical use of their data. Reports show that the Information Commissioner’s Office has reported a 160% increase in complaints. And while it’s too early to tell the true impact, initial reports show that there has been a dramatic increase in companies that are displaying cookie consent notices, in essence giving consumers the choice to opt out.

An increase in the availability of good quality data

While it is naive to believe that GDPR compliance is instantly synonymous with greater quality, some companies have reported an increase in usable data. Although compliance has been adopted by companies in varying degrees, making it difficult to measure, reports appear to indicate that the regulation has impacted the ease of accessing clean, reliable, and unbiased data. There are many benefits of this: one is the ethical aspect; the other is that it will aid the developments of tech advancements such as artificial intelligence (AI) which can be used to improve areas such as healthcare.

A look to the future

Whatever your opinion of GDPR, privacy in general is a hot topic that is here to stay. Recently, the EU announced that the ePrivacy Regulation (ePR) will come into force next year, replacing the current directive and aligning Europe’s ePrivacy regime more closely with GDPR.

On top of this, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 will tighten accountability of consumer data in the US. With 66% of marketers in the States believing the country should implement regulations similar to GDPR, there are talks of ePrivacy laws with wider ramifications.

Just recently, the founder of the internet – Tim Berners-Lee – said that the internet needed a ‘Magna Carta’ style contract to protect it from the destructive effects of abuse, discrimination, and political manipulation. Clearly, there are many who are fed up with the threat of another data breach. Laws such as the GDPR are now more important than ever by giving guidelines to companies and those wanting to do the right thing. It is also a means of keeping in check those who don’t want to comply by offering hefty fines.

It will be interesting to see what 2019 and an increase in ePrivacy regulations will bring to an already volatile landscape.

Greta Burgio, GingerMay PR By Greta Burgio, Account Manager