The unexpected consequences of GDPR

In the wake of the regulation, entrepreneurs of varying dubiousness are hoping to make a quick buck.

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In April, it was reported that the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions was planning to spend £14.73 million on activities to get in line with GDPR by the end of 2018.

And they’re not the only ones.

Although the DWP is the biggest single spender by a long way, the Treasury, Transport Department and Ministry of Justice have also set aside resources for the new regulation.

Most of the funding is going towards training staff and updating software to guarantee all personal data is handled securely. But, with the regulation not taking force until Friday and its full effects still an unknown quantity, there are additional measures in the pipeline.

A GDPR hub for cross-departmental planning and outsourcing of some of the more technical aspects of compliance are all further possibilities.

It might sound a bit dry to the uninitiated, but it’s enough to leave the enterprising go-getters of the online world rubbing their hands.

Considering the DWP has cut around 30% of its staff since 2010, the fact that GDPR has caused a complete volte-face in its reputed parsimony reflects the regulation’s potential profitability.

Are there genuine opportunities here or is it just fodder for the opportunists? And where does content stand in all this?

The rallying cry of GDPR

Cynics suggested onerous new regulations would damage the ability of EU businesses to compete internationally. Indeed, some US publishers are imposing outright blocks on European users accessing their websites rather than risk crippling fines from the regulator.

However, it’s also prompting interesting initiatives from inside the industry, where entrepreneurs have spotted new avenues for growth and development.

The Internet Advertising Bureau is publishing new guidelines – the Transparency & Consent Framework – designed to mobilise advertisers across the world in preparation for GDPR. Its aim is to futureproof them against forthcoming data laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act.

Pan-industry co-operation might sound nice, but there’s a dark side to GDPR’s spinoffs.

Ostensibly, the influx of budding data protectors is a welcome development, helping businesses to systematise their processes and giving consumers renewed confidence in how their data is used. But GDPR has also opened the floodgates to a less scrupulous class of bounders and charlatans.

For example, the advent of GDPR has meant the demand for data protection officers now far outweighs supply. In some companies working groups and data heads are stepping up to the plate. But others are falling foul of the growing number of outfits claiming to help businesses comply with GDPR.

A few of these are verified by the Information Commissioner’s Office – many are decidedly dodgier.

Yet, as the DWP example shows, even cash-strapped organisations are putting aside wads of money to pay for new software, data audits and staff training. With firms’ resources on the line, so much urgency surrounding the need to spend it and so little time to decide where it should be channelled, online opportunists are having a field day.

The content perspective

With cash up for grabs, it might be tempting for web-savvy content marketers to get involved with the market that has emerged from hapless business owners worried about their data footprints. But there are valid reasons to think content will come up trumps from GDPR in the long run.

We’ve already talked about the advantages of print here on Content Desk. With direct marketing like letters counted as legitimate interest, and doordrops on the rise as postal marketing slips through some key GDPR loopholes, the print industry’s potential offers a more familiar home for content marketers than digital charlatanry.

Many content creators are already embarking on more creative ways of riding the GDPR wave.

See, for example, this handy interactive guide to GDPR itself, allowing users to search for specific clauses and relevant related articles. It’s clean, attracts inbound traffic and provides a template that could be deployed in future campaigns. In short, it’s good content marketing.

The above examples might not be as immediately attractive as jumping on the bandwagon of GDPR gold-diggers. But they show that riding the GDPR wave and industrial-level unscrupulousness don’t go hand in hand.

There are ways of making the most of GDPR that can give your content strategy a leg up over time without putting your reputation on the line by delving into the digital dark arts.

So perhaps GDPR has gone from regulation to becoming a market all of its own, with spinoffs ranging from small-scale innovations to entire data-protecting industries springing up of their own accord.

But whatever you do, make sure you get in with the good ones. High quality content is always the safest place to start.