Data security is everyone’s responsibility. Individuals need to protect their identities and network connections. ISPs have to ensure their users are at least minimally safe from malware and viruses. Website owners also have to keep their users information safe.
Because personal information is being commoditized across the world, there are more and more regulations set in place to protect the individuals it belongs to. In the United States, HIPAA regulations protect personal medical information and set strict rules for companies that store or use the information. In the EU, GDPR protects general Internet users and shoppers.
What is GDPR?
GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation. It’s a set of data security rules and regulations that apply to European Union residents. GDPR was set in stone back in 2016, but compliance wasn’t mandatory until May 2018.
The GDPR has two primary goals:
- Give individuals more power over the collection, storage, and use of their information by companies and other third parties.
- Hold website owners and companies responsible for any misuse or negligent handling of EU residents personal information.
With these two goals in mind, the regulations are pretty widespread. Not only do they expand the definition of personal information to include everything from names to individual cookie IDs, but they also make it very clear that anyone collecting and using information is liable for any resulting problems.
Do you need to comply with GDPR if you’re based in the United States?
Just because you, your website, or your company isn’t based in the European Union doesn’t mean the GDPR doesn’t impact you. If there’s the slightest chance your site might collect personal details from visitors in the EU, you’re responsible for maintaining the requirements set forth in the regulations.
The only circumstances around which you don’t need to be compliant under the GDPR are if:
- Your site doesn’t collect any information that can directly or indirectly identify individuals whatsoever, and/or
- Your site can’t be accessed by residents of the EU.
It’s nearly impossible to meet these requirements. Almost every site collects information, whether it’s through cookies or a mailing list. You also can’t guarantee that no EU residents will access your site. Not only is it extremely challenging to block a continent from access, roving VPNs and even traveling EU residents can get to your site without meaning to cause you any trouble.
What do you need to do to make sure you’re compliant?
The GDPR sounds complicated, and it’s certainly not simple. The penalties for violating the regulations can also be severe. But there are easy steps you can put in place to make sure you stay compliant without slowing down business. Go through this list to get started:
1. Obtain permission to collect and share information, even if you don’t plan on collecting or sharing information.
Based on the sheer amount of online traffic you might receive, this can sound impossible. But automation tools have quickly caught up to the challenge. You can add plugins to your site that prevent data collection until that consent is obtained. There are even tools to help you push (politely and without violating the rules set in the GDPR) for consent.
One of the best tools is a pop-up. About this time last year, you might remember all of your favorite sites filling up with pop-ups that requested your consent for cookies and data collection. The popup might have blocked the content or reappeared regularly until you clicked ‘Agree’ to make it go away.
If your site didn’t go into the same flurry, it’s time to put those pop-ups in place. Make sure they explain what information you’re collecting and what you might do with it. Unlike marketing pop-ups, it’s okay to make these pop-ups a bit annoying. You need that consent, and you can’t really do business with any shoppers until you have it.
2. Make it easy for users to change their minds.
But sometimes visitors will want to retract their permission, and you need to give them the tools to do so. GDPR requirements are firmly on the side of the individuals, and individual’s rights to say yes and no are protected.
But just like with getting consent in the first place, an automated solution is the best way to keep things moving. Look for plugins that let people opt out automatically, just like you do with email lists and subscriptions. There are plenty of tools online that specifically guarantee GDPR compliance.
3. Consider switching to a comprehensive web-hosting and eCommerce service.
You’re an expert in your niche. That’s why your website or business keeps getting traffic and making sales. But just like your visitors turn to you for your expertise, it might be time to switch to a third-party expert when it comes to your website.
If you manage everything in-house, someone in your business has to keep track of data privacy laws on top of everything else. With a growing web of international policies and wide-reaching regulations, that’s more than a full-time job.
But third-party web hosting and all-in-one web services have teams of people to make sure your site is doing everything it should. While your company is still responsible for data collection and how you use that data, third-party services that guarantee compliance often take on a large portion of that responsibility and the ensuing liabilities. Switching to a service doesn’t just make it more likely you’re compliant. It also means your company has some protection in the event of a violation or data leak.
GDPR is just a small part of the digital obligations your company has to juggle. We stay on top of news that impacts your site. Our consultants can help you manage your private information playbooks and your marketing strategies.