How GDPR Influences Affiliate Marketing

GDPR: Affiliate Marketing’s Kryptonite?


The most widely told lie of our times is clicking the box that says, “I have read and agree to the terms and conditions”. We click on it and move on, because who has the time to sit and read the endless legalese? But a new European data regulation is about to change all that.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect this 25th May and seeks to ensure that the personal data of the citizens of the 28-member states of the European Union stays private.

What is GDPR?

The GDPR gives individuals the rights and the transparency to find out how and where their personal data is being used. Businesses must have direct permission from the consumer to send any kind of personalized commercial messages to them.

Under the GDPR, individuals enjoy greater control over their personal data and can ask for it to be erased or not be distributed any further. They can also prevent third parties from accessing the data and can also object to its use for direct marketing purposes.

How will this affect affiliate marketers?

In a world where data is the new oil, affiliate marketers have been using this till-now freely available data to fuel their success by utilising third-party websites to drive sales back to their own. Under GDPR, any business or organisation that touches personal data of EU consumers in any way is held accountable and any breach can lead to a fine of $25 million or 4% of their annual global turnover, whichever is higher.

What’s the way forward for affiliate marketing?

To be GDPR compliant, organisations with affiliate marketing models operating within the EU or targeting EU consumers will have to ensure effective data management procedures and protocols are in place by 25th May. Getting a Data Protection Officer (DPO) onboard would be a wise move, to ensure continuous compliance in case of any new updates to the regulations.

One of the main challenges affiliate marketers will face is that one-time consent from consumers does not give them the indefinite right to store and directly target them anymore. All their communication must include an easy-to-find opt-out request. Also, the consumer can, at any moment, ask the organization to erase all their personal data from the database.

This is not the end of affiliate marketing

As the GDPR puts the control back in the hands of the consumer, marketers will have to resort to double opt-in methods to build a valid database. The only way to get people to sign-up is through good content they want regular access to. This could usher in an era of better content quality leading to better sales for businesses willing to put in the effort of building their database organically.

What remains to be seen is how different companies handle the GDPR curveball. They could do the responsible thing and see this as a long-term investment or they could spend their energy finding loopholes. Recently Mark Zuckerberg said he thinks “everyone in the world deserves good privacy protection” when asked if GDPR should be applied to the US during his testimony before the Congress. That claim was obviously hollow as Facebook has recently moved the legal governance of 1.5 billion users in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America out of Ireland and away from the GDPR’s reach.

GDPR is here to stay and it’s hopefully the first of many much-needed data-privacy regulations. Whether this really translates into effective regulation or becomes another pop-up we mindlessly click “I agree” on, remains to be seen.

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