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GDPR implies it is time to revisit your email marketing strategies

Data security always has meant different things to different people. Most have agreed on the importance of using firewalls, but for decades, businesses have been able to choose the level of data encryption they employ. If they didn’t think a VPN was necessary, they simply didn’t use one. If they didn’t think they needed end-to-end data encryption, they would skip it and take their chances. That is, until recently.

Thanks to the newly enforceable General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), data security is starting to have a legal definition, making it a legal requirement to have certain types of data security. The GDPR regulations exist to protect the data of EU citizens and applies to enterprises globally because EU citizen data is stored by businesses all over the world.

Since a majority of personal data is collected and stored when people sign up for newsletters, businesses can no longer approach email marketing strategies casually and need to take extra precautions.

Don’t skip the double opt-in

A double opt-in process gives you tangible proof that each user joined your list of their own free will. Under GDPR, you are required to be able to prove every user chose to sign up.

Wanting to skip the double opt-in process for your new leads is understandable. Will the confirmation email go to spam? What if they forget to check for it, or the email is delayed? How many signups will you lose because people don’t want to go through the extra step?

These questions are valid concerns. However, they’re based on flawed logic. The incorrect perception is that getting as many leads as possible is a productive approach to email marketing. The truth is, if your leads don’t take the time to confirm their choice to join your email list, they’re not likely to be good customers.

Good customers are the heart of every successful business. For most businesses, 80% of sales come from about 20% of their customers. You really don’t want to keep every customer, and experts even recommend “firing” 10% of your customers each year.

Leads that don’t take the time to confirm opt-in probably don’t care much about the information in the first place. Or, they were just looking for a freebie. Your best leads will be people who are passionate about what you’re sharing and can’t wait to receive your confirmation email.

Encrypt internal email messages, too

No matter how private you think your emails are, every email you send and receive is stored on a remote hard drive you have no control over. If your email provider doesn’t encrypt your emails from end-to-end, (most don’t), all company emails are at risk.

Encrypting employee email communications plays a huge role in maintaining GDPR compliance. The average employee won’t think twice about emailing co-workers about sensitive issues that may include data from the business database. For example, someone might send a customer’s credit card information to the sales department for processing a return.

To protect your internal emails and maintain GDPR compliance, buying general encryption services isn’t enough. You need to know exactly how and when the data is and isn’t being encrypted. Not all encryption services are complete.

For instance, if you’re using Microsoft 365, you’ve probably heard of a data protection product called Azure RMS. This product uses TLS security to encrypt email messages the moment they leave a user’s device. Unfortunately, when the messages reach Microsoft’s servers, they are stored unprotected. “This means that Microsoft and other intermediary third-party providers can access the securely-sent data,” say security experts at Virtru, “making certain data residency, privacy, and compliance requirements more difficult to meet.”

How you secure your data is no longer your choice

  • The pseudonymization and encryption of data;
  • The ability to restore users’ access to their own personal data after a breach;
  • The frequent testing of a business’ security measures;

Fines for ignoring these requirements can be hefty at up to 10 million euros or 2% of the business’ annual turnover – whichever is higher. Additionally, that fine may rise to 4% if certain obligations are ignored.

Employing data security according to your own preferences is simply no longer worth the risk.

(This post originally appeared on the ISACA blog site, which can be viewed here).



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