It’s Time to Future-Proof Your Data Practices

A lot of digital content trends have unfolded over the past year or so. Perhaps the most notable of these is the increasing emphasis on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. In a similar vein, voice-enabled search and audio content has been on everyone’s minds as smart speakers (such as Amazon’s Echo) have started appearing in homes—and, now, in offices. But one trend that has been on our radar at EContent—and that has been quietly changing how we think about content—is a trend toward recognizing the importance of thoughtfully globalized content. (The topic has become so important, we’re devoting our summer issue to it.) As the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect, you have to give more thought than ever to who is seeing your content and where.

According to GDPR’s website, “The GDPR not only applies to organisations located within the EU but it will also apply to organisations located outside of the EU if they offer goods or services to, or monitor the behaviour of, EU data subjects. It applies to all companies processing and holding the personal data of data subjects residing in the European Union, regardless of the company’s location.” That probably means you.

Whether you’re a marketer for a global brand or a publisher with a European audience, you have to be aware of how GDPR is going to affect your data collection, storage, and usage. GDPR is a complicated subject—one you can read about in depth elsewhere in this issue—but I keep thinking about it, specifically, as part of a global content strategy. For so long, those of us who have been talking and thinking about globalized content concentrated most of our energy on translation and localization. But as of May 2018, the conversation needs to include the law.

GDPR is the tip of a very big iceberg—a glacier, really. The EU is just the first chunk of ice to calve off the data glacier and put the privacy of its people above brands. More countries are sure to follow. Data keeps the web-based economy humming along, whether we like it or not, and it behooves every content creator operating on the global digital stage to prepare for the plethora of regulations sure to come.

You have, no doubt, heard the words “future-proof your content” from the EContent crew, as well as from any number of other digital content experts. They often mean you should be preparing for the inevitable changes in form and function by intentionally designing your content to be flexible enough to meet the needs of whatever devices—such as those smart speakers I mentioned—come down the road. But I think we have to take the idea of future-proofing one step further and begin thinking about creating sustainable data strategies that don’t crumble under the weight of GDPR and whatever other laws might be on the way.

I keep wondering how U.S. companies are going to respond to the new regulations. Will they take GDPR to heart and implement these consumer protections for their U.S. customers—as well as all their other global customers—to earn some much-needed trust? Thanks to a series of data breaches, I have several offers for free identity monitoring from multiple companies. Lately, I can’t turn on the television without seeing a commercial for a free dark-web scan from Experian to determine whether or not my personal information is being traded on the black market. If this sounds familiar, you might love to see the companies that played fast and loose with your personal information fined 4% of annual global turnover or €20 million (about $24 million), which is the penalty for breaching GDPR.

I hope companies won’t just begrudgingly comply with GDPR and continue their sloppy and sometimes unethical data practices around the rest of the globe. It’s time to think ahead and build a strategy that allows brands to create engaging, personalized experiences without putting their customers at risk or betraying their trust. You have a chance to lead—don’t miss it.    

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