The internet is the largest online resource in the world, with approximately 3.5 billion worldwide users. Unfortunately, online privacy has been a prevalent issue that has warranted government intervention in recent years. In the aftermath of Facebook’s colossal data leak, governments around the world have focused primarily on promoting online security.

As a result, The European Union has mandated all companies in its jurisdiction to comply with a rigorous privacy law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This security code has been formulated to effectively protect the data of consumers. More importantly, the GDPR strongly prohibits EU companies from stealing and abusing consumer data as well. In this GDPR overview, you will learn everything you need to know about GDPR compliance, and how this law can affect your business in 2018.

Since 2016, The European Parliament has enforced the GDPR. Overall, this regulation outlines specific provisions that require companies to protect personal data and information that occurs in customer transactions. Also, the GDPR oversees any data transferred outside of the European Union (EU).

Every company within the 28 EU member states has to meet the standards of the GDPR if they conduct consumer transactions online. In fact, the GDPR effectively holds companies accountable for the large amount of data they receive. Even for companies like Facebook, this new law will force businesses to be more open about the data they have and who they distribute this data to.

Although the GDPR prohibits companies from performing secretive activities with consumer data, this law effectively put the control of data in the hands of its owners. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has even complimented the law to US legislators, specifically stating that he believes that the GDPR will be beneficial for the internet.

“I think the GDPR in general is going to be a very positive step for the internet.”

 This sweeping reform has received praise from European lawmakers, internet users, and company executives. However, the implementation of this security measure figures to be a time-consuming and complicated investment for companies who are forced to comply.

The GDPR was adopted by the EU in 2016 in order to replace the Data Protection Directive that was passed over 20 years ago. After a two-year long transitory period, this law will fully come into effect on May 25, 2018. After this date, the businesses who are not GDPR compliant will face a variety of severe consequences enforced by the EU.

 The deadline of the GDPR fully establishes this law as a regulation, rather than a directive. A regulation is a law that spontaneously becomes applicable and enforced in all member states of the EU. However, a directive is also a legal act, but it does not necessarily dictate how a law is supposed to be carried out.

 Because of this, the GDPR is a regulation that corresponding EU companies cannot ignore. It is best for businesses to comply with the GDPR’s provisions by May 25th, or your business could be in serious legal trouble.

Essentially, GDPR compliance is the adherence to the specific mandates regarding the privacy of consumer data. The GDPR provides companies with an extensive set of guidelines to follow in order to remain GDPR compliant. Many businesses work with digital marketing firms that direct all of their internet marketing activities.

One misconception is that these companies are responsible for ensuring that your business is GDPR compliant. In short, that assumption is completely false. As a business owner, you are solely responsible for learning about GDPR compliance and communicating these regulations with your marketing firm.

In addition, you are also responsible for ensuring that your marketing company is complying by these standards. For example, if you are employing a digital marketing firm to run your email marketing campaign, your business could be held liable if a website user believes that their data has been used improperly.

Much like in the infamous case of Facebook and Cambridge’s data scandal, you are responsible for how data collected from your website is used and distributed. Therefore, make sure you take the necessary steps of ensuring that your business is GDPR compliant. Also, if you are working with a marketing company, they should be aware of your intention to maintain GDPR compliance.

One critical misconception about the GDPR is that it only applies to businesses physically located in the EU. Interestingly, the GDPR applies to any company that collects, stores, and processes personal data and information from European citizens. Therefore, this provision applies to millions of businesses around the world in a wide array of industries. In fact, there is no clear exception.

If you operate an e-Commerce business that is based solely in the United States, you may not believe that a European law should apply to you. However, if European citizens are purchasing your products, you will have to also comply with the GDPR.

You could also be subject to the GDPR even if a financial transaction doesn’t take place. Because the GDPR requires companies to protect “personal data” from European citizens, the GDPR can still apply if you store and process any information a website user gives to you. This personal data can include names, locations, and ID numbers.

On the other hand, the GDPR protects all aspects of user data that relate to the physical, mental, genetic, political, sexual, and social identity of an individual. As you can see, not only does the GDPR apply to companies across the world, but this regulation is very specific in the types of data it protects.

The GDPR is an unprecedented global privacy security measure that promises the protection of personal data. However, there are a variety of implications that this regulation can have on your search engine optimization (SEO) goals. In the broadest sense, SEO is a practice that includes numerous metrics, data, and personal information.

The goal of SEO is to essentially predict the outcome of consumer search engine results and take advantage of this information through your website. Though, much of this practice relies on how you track and store personal data. For example, if you are building an email list, you are collecting personal data in an attempt to generate sales. Now that the GDPR has been put into effect, businesses will no longer be able to collect data without explaining what they will use the data for.

Usually, many businesses may briefly inform the user that by agreeing to sign up for an email list, they will voluntarily agree to the website’s privacy policy and terms of conditions. On May 25th, that simple trick will no longer suffice.

In order to remain GDPR compliant, you will need to explicitly state your intentions when you collect personal data on your website. This regulation will effectively eliminate the collection of data without user content, so you will have to adjust your SEO goals to accommodate this new reform.

Pay Per Click (PPC) ads give websites the opportunity to generate revenue through website traffic and clicks. Many websites collect cookies from its users in order to present relevant ads that are more likely to be clicked.

In previous years, websites could collect cookies from users without consent. However, after the GDPR goes into effect, this practice will become illegal. Cookies are considered to be personal data. Therefore, the GDPR protects this form of data from being abused by websites. On May 25th, websites will have to gain the consent from its users before they can collect data from their cookies. Unfortunately, this process may not be this simple. 

Many websites have found success at obtaining this consent by using the phrase, “by using this site you are agreeing to our Cookie Policy”. Under the GDPR, this phrase will no longer be suitable to obtain consent. Hence, you will have to actively gain consent from website users before you can collect their cookies.

As a result, some users will not allow you to collect their cookies, mainly because some PPC ads could appear to be annoying and can slow down page speeds. Because of this, your earning potential from PPC ads could be adversely affected.

Maintaining GDPR compliance will be necessary after its effective date. Therefore, you should take the steps necessary of becoming GDPR compliant. Here is a non-exhaustive checklist to ensure that you are accommodating to the standards of this regulation.

  1. Appoint a Data Protection Officer – This individual will handle all of the GDPR regulatory aspects for your business. From creating a data breach process to ensuring that acquired data can be deleted at the user’s request, a Data Protection Officer can make sure that your business is acting appropriately with personal data.
  2. Update Your Privacy Policy and Terms of Conditions – Under the GDPR, you are required to explicitly state how you process personal data, where it is being distributed, and how it is being used. If both of these documents lack this information, an update is definitely in order.
  3. Create a Cookie Policy – A cookie policy basically outlines what cookies you use and how you use them. Maintaining a direct cookie policy aligns with the standards of the GDPR. You can view a basic cookie policy here.
  4. Purchase a SSL Certificate – A SSL Certificate is a security measure that keeps stored data secure on your website. In order to reduce the chances of a data breach and to remain GDPR compliant, make sure you purchase a valid SSL certificate.
  5. Inform Users of the Changes – Make sure that your website users are aware to the changes of your website’s policies. Also, you are responsible for ensuring that your users can visibly and conveniently opt out from your email lists and that they consciously agree to your policies as well.

The GDPR is a privacy safety measure that is set to become the precedent for international internet safety. In order to avoid any exorbitant fines or penalties, you should be focused on making sure that your business is GDPR compliant, if you haven’t done so already. If not, this GDPR overview will give you all of the information so you can take the necessary steps.

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