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Publishers (Still) Haven’t Realized Just How Big a Deal GDPR Is

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The problem with GDPR is that most publishers see it as an IT/administrative burden. They think the only thing they need to do is set up some databases and do some other IT things … and then redesign their privacy page.

What I’m not seeing, however, is any real change to the way publishers use data, the business models they have that rely on data, or any consideration as to what impact this will have on their editorial strategies.

So, in this article, I’m going to talk about GDPR as a concept in relation to media trends, and consider what this means for your editorial strategies. I hope I can help you realize just how big a change this actually is.

Mind you, I’m not a lawyer. If you want to get legal advice on how to be compliant, you need to get in contact with a lawyer or a consultant with a specific focus on the legal aspects of this.

For now, let’s talk about this from a strategy perspective.

Don’t try to avoid GDPR

When I hear people discuss GDPR I have noticed that almost everyone talks about it in the legal sense. What I mean is that people are discussing what the technicalities of the law are, what exceptions or loopholes it has, and how you could get away with using these exceptions to continue to do the things you have always done.

And sure enough, there may be ways to classify some data as ‘legitimate interest’ so that you don’t have to ask people whether you can collect their data or not, and there may be ways that you can designate the 3rd party services that you use as co-controllers, or some other workarounds.

You also may be able to argue that you have terms of use with your 3rd party service that says they can’t use the data they are getting from you, even though you know you don’t actually have any control, and that they are using it anyway.

Legally, you may be able to find enough exceptions and loopholes to do all of this.

However, there are two major reasons why thinking about GDPR this way is the wrong strategy to have.

The overall trend in the market

The first major reason is the overall trend about privacy.

If you look at what is happening around us, you can see very clear signals that the public has had enough.

Today, for instance, we see that a majority of people who install an ad blocker don’t actually do it to block ads (that’s just an added bonus). They are actually doing it to block tracking.

What people are reacting to is not just what Facebook is doing, but how every publisher is using a very large number of 3rd party trackers, where neither the publisher or the reader has any control over what is actually happening with this data.

We also see this trend in many other aspects of online behavior. Think about how many people have locked and set their social profiles to ‘private’. Think about how people are using services like Snapchat, Instagram Stories, or Twitch live streaming … all services that, by default, delete what you have posted so that it can’t be turned into a privacy violation later.

The trend here is really clear.

If you then, as a publisher, just implement GDPR by taking advantage of all the exceptions or loopholes, so that you continue to load 38 trackers into your site and do it like it’s all ‘business as usual’, you will be fighting against this trend.

In other words, you become the bad guy.

Read more…

Further reading:

What’s New in PublishingGDPR: the ultimate resource guide for publishers

Publishing ExecutiveWhat publishers need to do about GDPR

AdweekGDPR: What brands, publishers and ad tech companies need to know