The more sceptical among you may have thought it an odd coincidence that so many of the world’s e-commerce and digital marketing companies had suddenly become so concerned about the integrity of consumers’ data. Your instincts would have been spot on.
No, there hasn’t been a spontaneous global outbreak of soul searching among e-marketers. What’s at work is good old-fashioned self-interest.
You see, this past Friday, a law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect across the EU. It gives consumers a much greater say on how, and if, their personal data is used. It requires companies to get clear consent from users before taking their data and to tell them exactly what it will be used for.
It also introduces some hefty fines for firms that flout the law: e20million (R292m), 4% of annual global turnover, or whichever is greater. That’s a penalty big enough to make even the likes of Facebook and Google sit up and take notice. Short of pulling all their business out of the EU, shedding millions of customers and losing billions in annual earnings, these titans of tech have to comply with GDPR.