A lot of trees have been felled both virtually and otherwise as experts and commentators have provided their views on the threats and challenges by the impending GDPR legislation.
My perspective is this. Until now providing an organisation could show that it had shown its customers the terms and conditions and an “I accept” button had been clicked, it gave them carte blanche to do whatever they wanted with its customers’ data.
I was amused to hear that as an experiment an academic set up a free WiFi hot spot, which people could latch onto as long as they just agreed to the terms and conditions. Over the course of the day hundreds of course did. However, within the terms and conditions, those who had accepted had agreed to hand over their first born, allow the owners of the hot spot to stay in their house for as long as they wanted (for free) and to relinquish their cars and other cherished goods.
The point being made here for me though is not so much caveat emptor, but how no one takes account anymore of terms and conditions as they are too long and complicated to read. The tsunami of wording in my mind exploits the lack of human patience in reading the fine print and is there purely to protect the company, never the customer.
Companies have of course known this for years and some have either exploited it or provided increased “personalised” services to their customers, depending of course on your point of view and level of cynicism.
What I feel lies at the heart of GDPR is the creation of a new spirit of honesty and openness between companies and their customers.
Many customers accept that to receive the high-end, bespoke services they crave, the quid quo pro, is that must provide those companies with access and insight into their daily routine and habits.
What I see now with GDPR is a tendency from more enlightened companies for increased transparency and a more honest and open exchange with their customers regarding the use of their data.
If customers can now read and understand what they are foregoing in exchange for what they get back they can take a more informed and personal view.
For me it is about the companies now treating customers as equals, having a clear conversation about the mutual undertakings from which both parties can take a view.
This is not only more adult, but also much more ethical, people want strong relationships with companies. Customers don’t really care whether what companies have been doing to date is perfectly legal but impenetrable, they want to know if their intentions are clear and honourable.
This can never be legislated for, but I can only applaud the drafters of the legislation as that is driving a lot of companies to behave exactly in that way.