GDPR for Bloggers – Are you ready?
*Disclaimer – these are my own personal interpretations of the guidelines on GDPR and as such should be used as opinion only and not relied upon. Please do your own research, and ultimately make your own decisions about how to apply the new legislation*
What is GDPR?
There may be a few bloggers who have clicked on this post thinking…..GD-Whatnow? In which case, this general introduction is for you.
The GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulations, and they are replacing the old Data Protection Act 1998 in the UK and EU. The aim is to bring the regulations more up to date, particularly in the light of technology and digitital advancements, protecting individuals personal data from inappropriate or undesirable use.
The GDPR comes into force in May 2018.
What Bloggers Need to Know
Whilst the regulations don’t officially come into play until next year, it doesn’t hurt to be ahead of the game, and over the coming weeks and months, more clarity will be given as to what bloggers can and cannot do. There are some things you can do immediately however, all of which would provide a good foundation for keeping yourself on the right side of the law. Here are my interpretations based on what I have read so far.
Say Goodbye to Auto opt in
Having subscribers to your blog is a useful tool for engaging with your audience who may otherwise miss your posts on social media. Many bloggers use a “Subscribe to Newsletter” option in their comment boxes – including me. Whilst having this option in itself isn’t a problem – be careful of that automatic opt in! Currently the Mailchimp plugin (and indeed other similar plugins) allow for the Subscribe Box to be auto checked as standard, meaning commenters have to specifically click on the box to remove their consent. Clearly, many will forget. Going forward, this option may well be removed from the plugin, as GDPR requires EXPLICIT CONSENT – and quite simply, a pre checked box is not going to cut it.
The amount of times I have failed to spot a hidden opt in box when entering a competition or giveaway, and automatically been signed up to a spammy newsletter – not anymore! Individuals should have the right to OPT IN (with an unchecked box), after which they will need to confirm their email address – this is two pronged VERIFIABLE element ensures that people know, and are happy with everything they are signing up to! I currently use Mailchimp for my newsletter, and they already have this email verification set up as standard. This feature also ensures that no one can be signed up for newsletters without their knowledge (let’s face it, anyone can type in an email address!).
Be more explicit about your lists
Alongside any sign up forms for your mailing lists, It may be sensible to outline more information about how their data will be used – e.g. how often they are likely to hear from you, what the newsletter is likely to contain, and reiterate that they have the right to unsubscribe at any time, either by clicking unsubscribe in the emails or contacting you directly.
Do not move data between lists
For example, if a reader signs up for your weekly newsletter, and you later decide to launch your own range of Baby Clothing, the individual’s data should not be added to a different mailing list and they should NOT be sent your latest product information without having explicitly agreed in advance. Whilst they may well be a group of people with a similar interest and as such be the perfect target market, this was not the purpose for which they initially granted permission for their data to be used.
If you rebrand
If you change your blog name or rebrand, it may be advisable to contact your current subscribers prior to the change and advise that the contact email / blog name from which they will receive newletters from will be amending and why, again giving them the opportiunity to then opt out if they so wish. Whilst failing to do so wouldn’t necessarily fall foul of the regulations, the extra transparency wouldn’t go amiss.
This should go without saying, but I have seen a lot of bloggers say recently that they have hosted a competition for a brand, only to be asked to send across the list of entrant’s data that has been collected once the competition has ended. Needless to say, this is NOT allowed (even under the current regulations!) so will be even less appropriate going forwards! Personal data collected should be used only for the purpose for which it was given – in this case – to enter the competition WITH YOU and your blog.
Consider your T&Cs
You may wish to add a Data Protection clause to your T&C’s for any competitions you host. These should clearly outline that any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. In the case of the winners personal contact information, you should make it clear that this will be passed on to the PR / Brand responsible and used only for delivery of their prize.
What about from the other side of the fence? How will the GDPR affect our relationship with PR / Brand contacts?
You may find that your existing PR contacts ask you to confirm, on email or online form that you still wish to receive their press releases and opportunity emails, as just because you were interested in the one product or brand they represented back in 2009, does not mean that you still wish to receive emails in 2018!
Data farming forms on Facebook groups are scarily common at the moment (with SEO agencies in particular sometimes using a generic “opportunity” to collate a large number of contacts before us bloggers receiving absolutely no details of the said campaign at all. It is then not entirely sure what has been done with our email or who it has been passed on to. This will be unlawful going forwards as it needs to be clear exactly what we are signing up for and how our data will be used. As it stands currently, I NEVER add my address to these forms until my involvement with a campaign is confirmed – I suggest all bloggers do the same in the short term!
As for speculative press releases, this is currently unclear. Obviously as a blogger I love getting speculative press releases and hope that this won’t stop or become more difficult when the regulations come in. Will PR agencies be scared to contact bloggers speculatively unless they can show exactly where they got their email address or that they have explicitly signed up to receive such updates? I hope not. It’s a challenging balance for PR and Marketers!
I will be adding a specific clause on my Contact Me page that says I am happy to be sent speculative press releases. I have no idea if this will make any difference, but I hope that being transparent will make life a little bit easier if nothing else.
We asked Lauren from Every1PR her thoughts on GDPR – here’s what she said..
“At the moment the full scale of GDPR is still being understood, but what we do know is that as a PR the effects and implications will be far reaching and will no doubt mean that we need to change the way we work with bloggers.
For PRs, clear opt-in consent really is a key element to the upcoming regulations. Asking bloggers to add details to vague forms or mass mailing out press releases may become a thing of the past. We will also need to adapt how we store and use the data we receive. I have growing lists of thousands of bloggers all for different projects and purposes so where I work, we have built a whole new database system so we can categorise bloggers based on how we know them and what they have opted-in for i.e. separate the newsletter sign ups from the ones who want sponsored posts.
As a blogger, you will probably be asked to fill in even more forms and tick more boxes. As a PR we will need to ensure that the forms aren’t vague, bloggers know exactly what they are signing up for and how their personal data will be used.”
Clearly GDPR is a developing subject, and something that I will be keeping a close eye on as the guidelines and advice on their application are published.
In the meantime, I hope you found this useful!