Email marketing software depends to a certain extent on cookies, devices such as clear gifs which are included in marketing emails or dropped on web users' laptops, tablets, mobiles etc to access or store information on those devices. The information returned is a major factor in ensuring that marketing emails are tailored for individual subscribers.
These new rules are amendments of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 and bring the UK in line with the rest of the EU. Whilst they have been law for nearly a year, implementation has been put back to an unspecified date post 26 May 2012. Despite suggestions to the contrary, this is not when email marketing software becomes useless.
The Information Commissioner’s Office has issued guidance. This multi-page document has been eagerly anticipated, but hopes that it would be definitive have been dashed.
It is never satisfactory to have legislation that is vague although in this case there are suggestions as to how companies should go about complying with the regulations.
The ICO gives three general pointers for compliance:
- Follow ICO advice
- Implement ‘quick wins’
- Look for advice from industry
However this has some drawbacks:
- The ICO’s advice is far from specific
- What constitutes a quick win is left to you to decide
- Industry advice, even from established institutions, has been criticized
You might be wondering what you should be doing and if so, you are hardly alone. If we look at the general tone of the ICO’s guidelines then there are some pointers.
The first thing to do is not to panic. Despite rumors of the sky falling, the new legislation does not mean that your email marketing software returns will be affected significantly.
Secondly, do not do nothing. In the event of a complaint this will be a point against you.
Compose a plan for compliance.
Implement some part of the plan. Despite the date for enforcement being some unspecified time in the future, you should have made changes already. These do not have to be substantial.
A follow up article will give more specific advice.