Quick Guide to UK GDPR, Marketing and Cookies
How UK GDPR and PECR go hand-in-hand
Most have heard of GDPR. However, data protection law existed way before this new kid arrived on the block in 2018. And let’s not forget in the UK, GDPR has an equally important cousin called PECR.
The UK’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) have been around since 2003 before the days of smartphones and apps. Organisations need to consider both UK GDPR and PECR when it comes to marketing and cookies.
Why marketers need to pay attention
There are more fines issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for falling foul of the PECR marketing rules than there are under UK GDPR. Under UK data reform plans, the amount the Regulator can fine under PECR could be set to increase substantially to a maximum of around £17 million. Currently the maximum fine under PECR is £500k. So it’s worth taking notice.
What’s the difference between UK GDPR and PECR?
In a nutshell…
✓ Tells us how we should handle personal data – information which could directly or indirectly identify someone.
✓ Sets out requirements organisations need to meet and their obligations.
✓ Provides us with seven core data protection principles which need to be considered whenever we handle personal data for any purpose, including marketing.
✓ Defines the legal standard for consent, which is relevant for direct marketing
✓ Gives people privacy rights, including an absolute right to object to direct marketing.
One of the principles is that processing of personal data must be lawful, fair and transparent. This includes making sure we have a lawful basis for our activities.
✓ Sets out specific rules for marketing to UK citizens, for example by emails , text messages or conducting telemarketing calls to UK citizens.
✓ Sets out specific rules when using cookies and similar technologies (such as scripts, tracking pixels and plugins).
PECR is derived from an EU directive, and EU countries have their own equivalent regulation which, whilst covering similar areas, may have different requirements, when marketing to their citizens.
How do UK GDPR and PECR work together?
Marketers need to consider the core principles of UK GDPR when handling people’s personal information. Furthermore, they need to have a lawful basis for each data activity. Of the six lawful bases, two are appropriate for direct marketing activities; Consent and Legitimate Interests.
Consent: PECR tells us, for certain electronic marketing activity, we have to get people’s prior consent. UK GDPR tells us the standards we need to meet for this consent to be valid. Consent – Getting it right
Legitimate interests: If the types of marketing we conduct don’t require consent under PECR , we may choose to request consent anyway, or we could rely on legitimate interests. For example, marketing to business contacts rather than consumers.
Under GDPR, we need to be sure to balance our legitimate interests with the rights and interests of the people whose personal information we are using – i.e. the people we want to market to. ICO Legitimate Interests Guidance
What about cookies?
PECR requires opt-in consent for most cookies or similar tech, regardless of whether they collect personal data or not. And we’re told this consent must meet the UK GDPR standards.
In simple terms, the rules are:
✓ Users need to be able to give or decline consent before the cookies are dropped on their device and should be given options to manage their consents at any time (e.g. opt-out after initially giving consent).
Changes are on the cards
The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill is currently progressing through Parliament. It’s not law yet, but if passed will usher in some changes to both UK GDPR and PECR.
The core data protection principles aren’t going away, nor are the lawful bases under UK GDPR, nor the rules for email marketing, text messages and telemarketing. However one proposal could see charities being able to take advantage of the soft opt-in for email/text marketing. What could the marketing ‘soft opt-in’ mean for charities?