What the US data protection law will mean for ad tech and marketers

By Tim Sleath

We’re at a pivotal time in the marketing industry. It has been nearly a year since GDPR arrived in the EU, but the repercussions are still being digested in Europe and beyond. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, a data protection ripple effect has been felt far and wide. It is now more vital than ever for marketers to pay due diligence on matters of their data, as well as the data of their partners. But how did we get to this point and what can marketers do to ensure they are in step with the recently proposed regulations that came about in the aftermath of GDPR?

Beyond GDPR

On the heels of GDPR arriving in the EU in April 2018, a private bill defining new online consumer data protection was proposed in California. However, to sidestep the Golden State’s strict rules on such cases, the privately-brought bill was effectively torpedoed by a traditionally-crafted piece of law we now know as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which has a defined launch date of January 2020. To quickly push out the regulation, some inconsistencies were overlooked and are in the process of being ironed out.

As these privacy initiatives quickly picked up steam, organizations scrambled to adhere to industry standards. We learned from GDPR that despite a solid two-year period leading up to the law, very few companies actually made efforts to comply until just months before it was implemented. Many observers were surprised that in some cases, the CCPA was, in fact, more onerous than GDPR – an example being that personal data has an even broader definition under CCPA. In the background, while CCPA continued to work its way through the statutory plumbing, another player entered the game.

During his infamous Senate hearing early in 2018, Mark Zuckerberg opined that some regulation is “inevitable.” This statement generated support for a federal privacy law of some kind. With the publication of the CCPA draft text, progress accelerated, not least because of the CCPA’s strict yet ambiguous terms. Key stakeholders argued that a new federal law should, unusually, take precedence over state laws (whereas normally the inverse is true). This growing momentum culminated in a Request for Comment [.pdf] process kicked off by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, to ascertain what such a federal framework might look like. With the Request for Comment period now closed, it has been revealed that 217 comments were made, from a variety of tech vendors, privacy advocates, brands, government agencies, trade bodies and individuals.

It now remains to be seen how quickly those comments are translated into a federal framework, whether that takes precedence over CCPA, and how well it aligns with GDPR. With all these potential changes in the works, how do marketers fit into the equation and how can they best prepare for the next updates to privacy regulation?

What marketers can do to stay aligned with privacy regulation changes

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