If you live in the world of digital marketing, you’ve no doubt heard something about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its upcoming May deadline. Many companies that operate solely in the United States are relieved to find that they don’t need to adjust anything, since the GPDR itself only applies to those doing business in Europe. While it is true that you may not be required to comply if you don’t have European customers or users, it is still important that you consider how GDPR can affect any company, and how it points to the future of online privacy.

What is GDPR?

Effective May 25, 2018, GDPR is a set of guidelines that applies to any organization that holds or uses data on people inside the European Union, regardless of the headquarters of the company.

This applies to any company, whether they are e-commerce-based or whether they simply track website usage. The full guidelines, which were approved on April 14, 2016 after four years of preparation, can be found on the EU GDPR website.

It is beneficial to understand the details of GDPR for any company, but critical that you pay attention if you have customers, members, or any audiences in Europe.

The Trend is More, Not Less

The important thing to note is that the general trend in the world is towards more privacy oversight and restrictions—not less. Thus, all companies should take note of how GDPR is being addressed and dealt with. These types of regulations and compliance requirements will undoubtedly be coming soon to the United States and other countries.

It’s a similar situation with website accessibility. While the U.S. Department of Justice delayed specifically regulating website accessibility rules and compliance, Europe will be implementing stricter requirements (WCAG 2.0 level AA compliance, for those in the know) as of September of this year. Even though there isn’t an exact date for the United States to follow suit, you can be assured it will happen.

The Opportunity

It’s rare that compliance is seen as anything other than a necessary requirement, but in this case there is an opportunity for a brand to take a stand on privacy and data collection. Why not differentiate your company by being an early adopter of GDPR-like standards?

With the current climate that includes Mark Zuckerberg’s recent testimony in front of Congress on Facebook’s sharing of 87+ million users’ information with Cambridge Analytics, the company that takes a stand on consumers’ privacy will be one that thrives in a new era of visibility on marketers’ behavior regarding data.

Don’t you want to be able to say that your company is an early adopter of responsible data collection and usage? It’s something your competitors won’t be able to claim.

In conclusion, while GDPR may not apply to your brand or organization, you should consider the opportunity that taking a strong stand on privacy might have for your organization’s reputation and relationship with your customers.