When it comes to building a website (opens in new tab) with one of the best website builders (opens in new tab), and hosting that site online via one of the best web hosting (opens in new tab) services, a major change in data protection in Europe must be a large factor in your thinking.
Having been in force since 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (opens in new tab) (GDPR) regulates how businesses use and protect customer data. Simply put, it creates two key obligations for organizations: it makes them responsible for secure management of customer data; and requires them to provide transparent, easily accessible information on how they manage and use this data.
It may look like the GDPR is a setback for digital marketing, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. It's relatively straightforward to make your business GDPR compliant, and doing so ensures customers feel their privacy is safe when using your site.
It also pays to make sure your site's GDPR compliant, as you might face fines of up to €20 million (or 4% of annual revenue) for breaching the GDPR. In this feature, we discuss how the GDPR can affect your website, and how you can ensure it's GDPR compliant across the board.
Making your site GDPR compliant: Online contact forms
Online contact forms are a standard feature on most sites today. They are an easy and straightforward way to help customers and businesses connect. Although the GDPR doesn’t stop companies from using contact forms on their websites, it does create new obligations and responsibilities.
Firstly, organizations must explain why they are collecting personal information. For each custom data field (name/address/phone number), it helps to explain why you are collecting this data and how it will be used. For example, if you are asking customers for their address, you would explain that this is required so you can provide correspondence by mail.
If you can’t think of why the data you are collecting is necessary, then perhaps it is not worth collecting. This process of the GDPR is designed to ensure that companies only collect essential personal information.
One of the most significant developments to come out of the GDPR is the prohibition of unsolicited marketing emails. GDPR compliant businesses can only send emails to individuals who have opted in to receive marketing information via the specified form of communication.
Companies in breach of this requirement are liable to receive hefty fines or other punitive measures. Before the coming into force of the GDPR, businesses were encouraged to ask all customers to opt in again to marketing communications. Now you must receive consent from all customers before sending them marketing or promotional materials.
Handling data in a GDPR compliant way
The GDPR creates several obligations for businesses concerning their handling and management of customer data. A few of these are worth mentioning here.
Firstly, organizations are required to secure all customer or user data with some level of encryption. Adding an HTTPS protocol to your site is one of the easiest ways of fulfilling this obligation. Secure storage of customer data with AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) 256-bit encryption is also recommended.
Secondly, businesses must ensure that data collected in Europe remains in Europe, or that any non-European entity with access to customer data is GDPR compliant. Even within Europe, businesses are responsible for ensuring that all partners or collaborators in customer data management are GDPR compliant.
Making your site GDRP compliant: Conclusion
Following the advice contained in this article will help your website become GDPR compliant sooner. GDPR compliance can demonstrate to your customers that you are a responsible and reliable business, and may help you develop better relationships with them.
When we add the costs of not complying with the GDPR, there’s no reason not to start becoming compliant today.
Further reading on web hosting and website builders
Make sure you read our features that focus on how web hosting security (opens in new tab) can impact your site; how you can evaluate and improve website security (opens in new tab) in a few simple steps; and why you should undertake regular website audits (opens in new tab) to keep your site up-to-date.