Are you a business, are you really?
Last week saw me attend two local networking groups. I decided that my pitch for the week would be to the point. “How many of you here are sole traders or self employed?” A good 75 to 80 percent of members put their hands up. “Did you know that according to the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations, you are all classed as individuals – even when being contacted using your business email address?” Blank looks. “This means that when you take someone’s business card and add their email address to your mailing list – without an opt-in – you are breaking the law.
At this point the looks changed from blank to worried because (and herein lies the problem), small businesses and their owners usually don’t bother to understand what their legal requirements are concerning data.
A quick visit to the Information Commissioners Office website is enlightening. For starters it’s got loads of useful, plain English information about all the legislation relation to data protection in the UK. There is no excuse. Really, there is no excuse. And the ICO are consistent in their stance: you have an obligation and if you fail to look after the data you own, collect it or use it inappropriately they will seek legal reparation.
The financial penalties can be up to £500,000 and a custodial sentence, but they have been known to seek a lower amount, but applied to each violation.
I bet that’s got your attention!
This is serious. People are getting ever more annoyed at the slapdash way organisations are using their data, bandying it around with gay abandon. All it will take is one unrequested email too many and before you know it they have a made a formal complaint and you are under investigation, facing those penalties that just made you wince.
You shouldn’t be breaking the law, but you also can’t assume that because you aren’t fazed by an inbox of unrequested email, that everyone shares your view. I for one don’t. I have enough legitimate email traffic from my trusted clients and partners without my inbox being burdened with information I don’t want – especially if it’s inappropriate for my business email address.
I can’t make you compliant, but I hope that people will start to think that they do have an obligation to act. Hopefully it won’t take someone within my business community to be prosecuted before it sinks in.
Has this got you thinking? Let’s have a chat and make sure that you’re legal… and safe.