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GDPR: An Opportunity to Build Trust

General Data Protection Regulation
Written by John Marshall

Customer data is the fuel propelling today’s economy. And with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) going into effect in just over two weeks, many companies feel daunted by the newfound restrictions on the very insights that drive their go-to-market strategy or their product roadmaps.

While this kind of change might raise alarm bells for businesses, the GDPR also promises to help us better serve customers by taking greater accountability for their personal information. No matter where your users are based–whether in the EU or elsewhere–the GDPR gives every business a playbook for governing data ethically. And it offers lessons that everyone in an organization can internalize to better support a customer-first attitude.

GDPR is About Respecting Our Customers

One of our company values at Grovo is a “service mentality”–taking initiative to help our colleagues and customers, and respecting them in every decision we make. At its heart, the GDPR is about showing this kind of consideration for customers, giving them more transparency into how their personal information is used, and building a stronger relationship in the process. That, along with the business implications of the GDPR, make it a fitting topic for us to cover.

Here are some components of the GDPR that will help businesses better foster this kind trust.

Consent from the data subject: The law gives people control over their own data by requiring that companies get the consent of EU-based users (or “data subjects” in the GDPR’s parlance) before collecting or processing their personal data. Plus, this consent must be requested in a way that’s fully understandable to the user–no unreadable fine print that buries the details. The GDPR even gives the user the right to withdraw their consent at any point in the future.

Transparency about how data is used: Under the GDPR, users can see exactly how their data is being used. Companies must notify users of how their data will be processed, allowing them to understand and even voice disagreement with these processes if necessary. This is an important consumer protection, allowing data subjects newfound visibility into what will happen to their personal data before they choose to share it.

Freedom from automated decision making: The GDPR gives users the ability to avoid the potentially harmful effects of automated decision making. In her 2016 book, Weapons of Math Destruction, mathematician Cathy O’Neill lays out several ways in which predictive algorithms have corrosive effects on society. (Examples include targeting for-profit education ads to poor individuals, or concentrating police activity in low-income neighborhoods.) Citing repeated examples like these, O’Neill reveals how algorithmic decision-making can reinforce social inequality despite promising a fairer, more objective world. Increasing awareness of these potential harms is another benefit offered by the GDPR: it upholds an individual’s right not to be subject to legal consequences based on automated decisions.

The Bottom Line

As consumer activism continues to drive customer decision-making across every market, businesses are increasingly expected to define a set of values, and to make decisions that uphold them. With the GDPR now governing every piece of data from an EU citizen, companies worldwide have the opportunity to embody a more ethical, more customer-first attitude, and to build stronger relationships in the process.

To prepare for the May 25 deadline in which the GDPR goes into effect, download our 11-step guide, so you can start learning how following the GDPR can help you build trust with your customers.