GDPR and why it’s time for a self heating breakfast in a tin

Wow. Just, wow.

The level of panic amongst marketing professionals has reached fever pitch. If you listen closely, it is actually possible to hear bum cheeks squeaking together as embattled staff up and down the country aim to deal with GDPR before the 25th May deadline.

The last time the professional world went a bit loopy like this was in 1999, when some bright spark discovered the Y2K bug and all hell broke loose. Organisations went into full panic mode, convinced that at the stroke of midnight on 31/12/99, computers would cease to function and the world would be plunged into anarchy.

At the time, I was working for an electricity distribution company and the powers that be actually stocked up on field rations so staff could continue to work if things really did go belly up. The place was packed to the rafters with breakfasts, cottage pie and various other gourmet delights – in self heating tins…

Public hysteria was just as bad. On a trip to Sainsburys on New Years Eve, the shelves were virtually bare. Bottled water, bread, potatoes and many other staples had sold out. Fortunately, there was still some beer so at least the celebrations were still on!

It feels a bit like that level of panic is gripping the world now thanks to GDPR. On a single day last week, I received 14 emails asking me to reconsent to one mailing list or another. Most of these requests were completely unnecessary. Either because I had bought products or services from the company in question, so they are well within their rights to continue to email me with similar offers or because the email was sent to a business address, so as long as they have a different basis to process my data, they don’t need my consent.

But why is this happening? Because there is so much misinformation about GDPR and what our industry is obliged to do to deal with the new legislation. GDPR is big and will inevitably cause some head scratching, but the current levels of confusion seem wholly disproportionate with what is actually at stake.

The ICO have issued various bits of guidance for companies to try and get to grips with GDPR and some of it is really good, but it feels like too little, too late. A lot of SMEs are way out of their depth – what company can afford to dedicate a big chunk of time to negotiating something like this without there being a negative impact elsewhere in the business? It’s not fair.

Hopefully, the ICO will take a pragmatic view of GDPR and accept the fact that as a nation we are woefully underprepared and that as the regulator, they have a part to play in that.

In the meantime, if things get really bad, you can always stock up on emergency food and head for the hills. Amazon do some cracking deals:

Bon appetit. (and if you need some help with your GDPR prep, check out our ebook).

By Toby Walker