How Data Privacy Laws Affect Your Content Strategy

Published: Jun 03, 2022
Last Updated:
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Content strategy is hot in 2022, with many companies expanding their content marketing departments and partnering with third-party content strategist experts

However, when implementing a content strategy, you must respect the privacy of the people your strategy targets and be aware of the regulations protecting it.

Let’s look at how you can ensure you are doing just that.

What Is a Content Strategy?

A content strategy is your company's plan for using content to achieve your business goals. Ideally, it should attract your target audience, create value by solving an issue and keep them engaged even after initiating a purchase.

You can use content in various ways, for example, to inform, educate, or entertain your readers. However, you should create the content with your target audience in mind. Carefully select the words and tone based on what you know about your audience's demographics and preferences (this is where data privacy comes into play).

Your target audience should find the content you create to be valuable. Some people do this by educating their readership, while others choose to entertain. Both options add value and may keep the target audience coming back for more of the same.

What Is Data Privacy?

Data privacy is the idea that companies who handle or store personal data from their customers or employees owe a duty to those people to keep their information private and free of misuse.

But, of course, it gets more complicated than that.

There are many facets to data privacy, including rules on:

  • Whether you collect data directly or indirectly
  • Whether you collect personal information (PI)
  • Whether you collect information that you could use in conjunction with PI to identify someone in-person or online
  • Whether you collect data from children under 13
  • Whether you collect data from certain states or countries

With the advent of the internet, information has grown exponentially, especially over the last decade, with a global data volume of 175 zettabytes predicted by 2025. Maintaining data privacy becomes trickier as the global volume grows.

In 2011, the United Nations even made internet access a legal human right in their Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The report notes the importance of internet access and the right to privacy and data protection.

Collecting Data Directly or Indirectly

Some data privacy laws break data into two types: direct data and indirect data.

  • Direct data is data that you collect from your site's visitors directly. For example, if you ask people to sign up for your newsletter, you directly collect your visitors' email addresses.
  • Indirect data is data that a third party collects from your site. For example, if you are using apps or plug-ins on your website, then there is a good chance these add-ons are collecting indirect data on your customers.

Collecting Personal Information (PI)

Different laws and regulations define PI differently, but it generally includes collecting data that you can use to identify someone, such as their

  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • First and last name
  • Address
  • Social security number

PI is considered sensitive data if it reveals people’s confidential information.

Collecting Information That Could be Used in Conjunction With PI To Identify Someone

Less sensitive data, such as information you could use combined with PI to identify someone, is protected in some parts of the world. For example, the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA) regulates this type of data and covers things like:

  • Shopping cart data
  • Answers to security questions
  • Online activity
  • User preferences

Collecting Data From Minors

Some countries have enacted laws against companies collecting online information from minors

For example, in the US, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires companies to receive parental consent when collecting online data from children under 13. 

The law also restricts companies from selling the data from these children to third parties.

Collecting Personal Data From Various States and Countries

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTD), around the world regarding data privacy:

  • 71% of countries have legislation
  • 9% of countries have draft legislation
  • 15% of countries have no legislation
  • 5% of countries have no data

In the US, five states have rolled out comprehensive data privacy laws:  California, Colorado, Utah, Connecticut, and Virginia. 

It's important to note that you often must abide by the data privacy laws of the country or state whose citizens your business is targetting — even if your business isn't located there.

Which Data Privacy Laws Will Affect Your Content Strategy and How?

The applicable laws vary depending on where you do business and where your consumers are located. However, the five data privacy laws most likely to impact your business are:  

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and UK GDPR: Applies to all websites that target EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and the UK.
  • Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA):  Any company that conducts business in Canada is subject to this federal act. However, some provinces have enacted their own privacy laws, like Alberta, Quebec, and British Columbia.
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA): The strictest data privacy law in the US and applies to any business that targets California consumers and meets certain thresholds.
  • The ePrivacy Directive (Cookie Law): Regulates the processing of personal data online, specifically website cookies. Its most visible effect was to require cookie pop-ups on websites to gain user consent. It supplements the GDPR and, in some areas, even overrides it. 

How These Laws Affect Your Content Strategy

If you have a robust content strategy, there's a good chance it involves collecting and handling data from your site's users. 

For example, you probably use tools like Google Analytics to monitor your traffic and measure certain goals.

Whichever specific privacy laws apply to you, they all impact your content strategy in two key ways. 

  1. Consumers Control Their Data

One of the major initiatives of all data privacy laws has been to give consumers knowledge of how their data is collected and used and control of that data. That includes the right to stop you from collecting it and requesting you to delete their data at any point.

These new rights mean that content marketers now need to be extra careful about how they gather consumer data and how they handle it. You must also be ready to dispose of that data correctly and no longer rely on it as soon as a consumer asks you to.

  1. Limited Marketing Insights

With access to less information, you may find it trickier to target audience segments with tailored ads and digital marketing. In addition, it may be harder to interpret what’s going right (or wrong) with your content strategy.  

However, these limitations should not prevent you from creating a comprehensive content strategy that respects users' privacy and offers them value. 

Everything changes over time, and how you market your content is no different. The best marketers will find ways to adapt to new challenges and set themselves apart from the competition.

Consequences of Ignoring Data Privacy Laws

Failing to comply with data privacy laws can have harsh consequences. Ignoring or pleading ignorance of data privacy laws is not accepted as a reasonable excuse for failing to comply. 

Today, it's possible that you may need to comply with multiple state and country data privacy laws, depending on how far-spread your site's reach is.

The fines for breaking these information privacy regulations are steep. For example, last year, Amazon was fined nearly $900 million for violating the GDPR.

Companies that have intentionally violated the CCPA will be charged $7,500 per intentional event, while unintentional events are fined $2,500 each. 

The CCPA will likely consider an event unintentional if most adequate protections are taken. However, each violation will probably have hundreds if not thousands of events, which can add up quickly, even if the events are deemed unintentional.

Worse yet, receiving a CCPA violation opens the door to class-action lawsuits for all people whose personal information was inadequately protected. This private right of action could result in an even more significant financial loss for your company.

Intent Is Irrelevant

If you collect any data from your customers from any major market, odds are, you will need to adhere to the regulations of some data privacy laws. This is true no matter how innocent your data-gathering intentions may be.

Some website owners falsely assume that no compliance is necessary if they don’t have nefarious intentions for their customers’ data. However, that is not the case with data privacy and protection laws.

Tips to Ensure Your Content Strategy Adheres to Data Privacy Laws

Given how crucial privacy compliance is to businesses around the globe, no content strategy is complete without considering the data privacy implications. 

Here are some simple steps to build a compliant content strategy:

Give Users Proper Knowledge and Control Over Their Personal Data

According to research, 68% of consumers worry about how much personal information they share with businesses (KPMG). 

So, when crafting your content strategy, you need to keep that in mind. In addition, as a business that needs to comply with data privacy laws, you must ensure that:

  • You generate a privacy policy to inform consumers about how you collect, handle, and use their personal information and how they can control that process. You must have a link to your policy in a prominent place on your website.
  • Give consumers an easy way to opt in (GDPR) or opt out (CCPA) of having their data collected. Since data is often collected using cookies, this process can be simplified using an automated cookie consent solution.
  • Speaking of cookies, you need to have a detailed cookie policy disclosing your usage of cookies to users and how it affects them. As with your privacy policy, it must be easy for users to access and read. 
  • Let your consumers decide how often they receive your communications, e.g., weekly, monthly, or never. 
  • Make it easy for them to choose what type of communications they receive, e.g., newsletters, e-books, or special offers. 
  • Allow them to customize where they receive communications, e.g., email, text, and social media. 

Prioritize Collecting First-Party Data

First-party data is information received straight from your audience rather than through third-party service providers. This method eliminates any risk of not complying with the law because you were unaware of third-party practices.

Here are some ways you might collect it. 

  • Deliver value to consumers who engage with you further. For example, explain how people could benefit from personalized product recommendations and content tailored to their preferences. 
  • Encourage users to create accounts and stay logged in by reserving certain features for signed-in members. For example, maybe signed-in users can build a wishlist or leave reviews.

You can still collect relevant, helpful data to guide your content strategy if you show people they'll benefit from sharing data with you. You must also make it clear that you take data privacy seriously and that you will respect the data you collect.

Make Data Privacy a Brand Value

According to KPMG, 86% of consumers care about data privacy. Moreover, 40% don’t trust companies to use their personal information responsibly

What’s one way to resolve these fears? First, make data privacy a core brand value.    

  • Use simple language in your privacy and cookie policies to ensure consumers understand what you’re saying. 
  • Minimize the data you collect. While targeting individual segments is important, create content that appeals to a broad audience, so you’re relying less on personal data.
  • Promote your commitment to data privacy and responsible data collection through your content, e.g., social media posts.
  • Be accessible and available to consumers who have questions regarding data privacy.

Second, don’t view data privacy as an obstacle — view it as a chance to strengthen your brand values.  

Have a Clear Internal Data Compliance Policy

Data privacy compliance begins with your staff. If you want your teams to comply with data protection rules, then you need to ensure they understand:

  • What the applicable data protection laws are
  • Why the laws apply to content creation, sharing, and management
  • How the laws affect their day-to-day tasks

You need a written compliance policy for your teams to follow. While every policy is unique to the individual business, your document should touch on what personal data is and how staff can honor data privacy when building and executing a content strategy.

Wrapping Up

As data privacy laws evolve, so should your content strategy. Stay agile, build privacy into your company values, and deliver truly engaging, informative content to encourage your audience to share valuable data with your brand organically.


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