Draft DP Regulation could signal the end of free online content | DMA

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Draft DP Regulation could signal the end of free online content

At this Summer’s Marketing Week Live in Olympia I, along with my CMO, warned an audience of marketers that personalisation was hanging very much in the balance. The draft Data Protection Regulation, if it eventually makes it on to the EU statute books, could well have the effect of greatly reducing the volume of personalised advertising, especially if marketing is treated the same as other much more privacy-instrusive uses of data.

My CMO and I surmised this would, in turn, cause a huge amount of what is currently offered for free being put behind paywalls, but would not stop advertising.

I am sure most people prefer their web usage to be free at point of click. The marketing industry needs to do a much better job at educating consumers about what they get in return for giving up some of their data. This value exchange is perhaps not obvious to them.

Exercises in transparency such as the recently launched consumer portal aboutthedata.comwill help demystify the industry and take away a lot of the hype exploited by newspapers and privacy crusaders.

There is growing speculation whether the draft DP Regulation will be passed before the deadline of May 2014, which is when the EU elections take place. Even the chair of the LIBE committee in charge of the draft, Jan Philipp Albrecht has conceded that there is a “struggle on timing”.

I absolutely agree with the MEP, especially if the draft regulation is not made into a directive which would then allow it to be better interpreted by member states. I also agree with the UK government which does not want to see the rules tightened on data protection. They are tight enough already.

Much has been written about the so-called risk-based approach which is being mooted as a possible compromise to achieve the May deadline. I would argue we already have a risk-based data protection regime, eg the fairness concept, legitimate interests test, the concept of sensitive data, appropriate security measures. The list goes on.

The highly technical negotiations of the draft text in the run-up to May to accommodate risk-based changes must not descend into political horse-trading. A complete overhaul of directly applicable data protection law with the potential to severely impact the EU economy is far too important for that.

By guest blogger, Alex Hazell, Head of UK Privacy & Legal, Acxiom

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