Foundations and Regulations of Data Privacy in Email Marketing You Need to Know

January 20, 2022

Human error is to blame for a large majority of email data privacy infractions which makes an email marketer, the main source and threat. As an email marketer, your most reliable strategy to reduce this risk is to arm yourself with the knowledge that will guide better procedures and protocols concerning data privacy issues. 

The laws that govern data privacy in email marketing are extensive, universal, industry, and region-specific. As an email marketer, you must have an understanding of how all these jurisdictional privacy checklists apply to the company you’re marketing. 

These many laws sound daunting in theory however, these laws are very similar because their primary aim is the same, to protect data subjects. If you ensure that your email marketing practice adheres strictly to that goal, you're closer to compliance. 

This article will provide a thorough summary of all the legislations you must follow to send a data-compliant email.

Email Marketing Data Privacy Regulations

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 exists to safeguard private patient information. HIPAA covers any company that provides treatment, payment, or healthcare operations that handle protected health information (PHI). These companies are referred to as ‘covered entities. it also extends to cover business associates or subcontractors with access to PHI to provide support for covered entities.

HIPAA expanded its scope in 2003 to safeguard data subjects' information transferred or held in electronic form. As a result, covered entities must take reasonable precautions to safeguard ePHI in email while it is in transit to the recipient's inbox. The responsibility of the sender ends when the email reaches the recipient, and it is then up to them to protect any PHI they may have in their inbox.

HIPAA violations are monitored and enforced by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) division within The US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).

Checklist For A HIPAA Complaint Email 

Source: Revenue Hub

Consent is king under GDPR. GDPR compliance is crucial for every business that offers services to people in Europe or monitors their online behavior. Sending Marketing emails constitutes the processing of personal data and to process personal data you need a "lawful basis". The GDPR stipulates six lawful bases, two of which are relevant to marketing emails. They are "consent and legitimate interest". The basis of legitimate interest is very limited and only covers marketing emails that qualify under soft opt-ins. Soft opt-ins are used to describe emails sent to customers that already exist in your customer database which were gathered when they bought or expressed interest in your interests. Soft opt-ins are only used to offer goods and services closely similar to the original which the customer bought or showed interest in. All other marketing emails that do not qualify under soft opt-ins must have GDPR standard consent. 

Other countries that have a federal law equivalent to GDPR are; Canada, Turkey, Qatar, Israel, Bahrain, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, South Africa, Mauritius, Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria. 

Checklist for A GDPR Compliant Marketing Email

Source: SaleCycle

US Data Privacy Laws 

As of 2022, the US does not have a uniform federal data privacy law. The US approach to data privacy regulations is state and industry-based. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 is an anti-spam law that specifies regulations that commercial emails must comply with. It's the closest the country has to a unified data privacy law, it's just close enough because the requirements are opt-out thereby being way lenient in comparison to other data privacy laws. The Californian Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the Massachusetts Data Protection Act are equivalents of GDPR and apply if you're marketing to people in California and Massachusetts.

However, it's very likely that the US will join other countries in unifying data privacy standards. It's not a stretch to say the country would stay close to the standards already set by the GDPR.  it's safe to ensure that your emails are GDPR compliant at the very least in every industry.

Significance of US Data Privacy Laws

The overarching significance of data privacy is that violations of the standards set by legislation have serious consequences. Your company could incur fines, lose its reputation, and have to shut down. 

The topic of data privacy and how it relates to email marketing is not new, however, the massive attention and monitoring it has garnered in recent times is undeniable.  Only companies that handle personal data with respect and care will maintain relevance and longevity in our digital world. Regulatory bodies are watching closely and ignorance is not an acceptable defense.

Regulatory organizations have moved quickly to penalize huge corporations such as Amazon, Whatsapp, Google, and Facebook. Fines are not generally elaborate or levied on huge organizations; the smallest fine ever recorded was £20 issued to a company in Hungary in 2020.

Source: Mailup

Key Takeaways

The standard for the protection of data subjects (natural persons) is serious business and if you didn't care before, you still have time after reading this article to make amends. You can start by familiarizing yourself with the scope and reach of your company. Where are your customers? What location-specific data privacy laws protect them? Are there industry-based laws covering your business? Answer those questions, properly research and study those laws thoroughly, and apply them to your email marketing. 

Yes, Data privacy in the realm of email marketing can be intimidating but it's as simple as acquiring the relevant knowledge needed and establishing legal standards for all your email practices. 

Author's Bio

Tolulope is a freelance writer who reads more than she writes. Her major goal as a writer is to add value to whatever audience she's writing for. She has SEO certifications from SEMrush and HubSpot. You'll find her work in the Data privacy, B2B, SaaS, and e-commerce space. 

You can connect with her through email or LinkedIn. If she doesn't reply in 5 hours, hold still she's somewhere reading. 

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