GDPR Compliance & Emails: What Canadian SMBs Need to Know

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect May 25th, and although details of the law are still being worked out, when it comes into effect, in the eyes of European law, an organization must demonstrate they are being lawful and must be able to prove compliance.

Who is subject to GDPR?

For those of us here in North America who do business with European countries, we are subject to GDPR because of international collaboration between authorities. Specifically, though, GDPR applies to:

  • Any organization that collects, changes, transmits, erases, or otherwise uses or stores the personal data of EU citizens. (Personal data is any piece of data that, used alone or with other data, could identify a person).
  • Any person or organization which, alone or jointly with others, determines the purposes and means of the processing of personal data, known as the “Controller”, is accountable under GDPR.
  • Any organization sending emails to individuals in the European Union is subject to GDPR, regardless of the originating country of the emails.

What are the two main DIFFERENCES between CASL and GDPR?

  1. Commercial Electronic Message vs. Data Protection

The biggest differentiator between CASL and GDPR is that CASL governs Commercial Electronic Messages (CEMs) while GDPR governs data security and protection.

  1. Compliance Program vs. Lawful Bases

When proving compliance, a CASL Compliance Program that meets the CRTC’s eight requirements is one’s only defense in Canada. For GDPR, an individual or organization may reference one of the six lawful bases, as long as one can prove and demonstrate that they respected all the details and took all the action required of the lawful base cited.

About Consent

Some lawful bases don’t apply to all businesses and marketers, but if you send emails, you’ll want to know about Consent as a Lawful Base.

Remember, a company must be able to fully justify why they are collecting the information of an individual or organization, to what means they are using it, and how that information is being protected.

Consent is one of the ways, and the easiest for email marketers, to prove lawfulness and compliance in the eyes of GDPR. However, there are strict requirements and you will need to obtain explicit consent moving forward from all your subscribers or from anyone that fills out forms on your web pages to receive communications from you, if you use Consent as a lawful base.

Important: unlike CASL there is no implied consent in the eyes of GDPR nor are there B2B exceptions. There is only explicit consent. Note that:

  • Consent must be specific to distinct purposes.
  • Silence, pre-ticked boxes or inactivity does not constitute consent; data subjects must explicitly opt-in to the storage, use, and management of their personal data. A double opt-in procedure is the best and safest way forward.
  • Separate consent must be obtained for different processing activities, which means you must be clear about how the data will be used when you obtain consent. The opt-in message that is used has to state all the ways you could possibly use the personal data you collect and how you are protecting that data. (ex.: state that you take data protection seriously by including a link to your Privacy Policy, and indicate that a person can access, rectify, or erase their data at any time.)
  • Consent must be verifiable and requires a written record of when and how someone agreed to let you process their personal data.

Access, Rectify, and Erase

Additionally, as you collect an individual’s data through your online forms (ex.: first name, last name, email, etc.) under GDPR an individual must able be to access, rectify and erase their data at any given time. Thus, we suggest that you include a section in your Privacy Policy as to how an individual may go about this (ex.: by sending an email with the request to [email protected]).

Record keeping and a centralized database

Within the rules and regulations of both CASL and GDPR, good record-keeping practices is not only necessary to establish a due diligence defense in the event of complaints against your business, but good recording keeping helps businesses (i) identify potential non-compliance issues, (ii) investigate and respond to consumer complaints, (iii) respond to questions about the business’s practices and procedures, (iv) monitor their corporate compliance program, (v) and identify the need for corrective actions and demonstrate that these actions were implemented.

Additionally, in order to meet the requirements of GDPR regarding Data Privacy and Consent, a centralized database for contact management, processing and documentation are helpful, not only for client relationships, smooth and efficient operations, but also for proving lawfulness and compliance.

As an individual or organization that sends emails, for marketing or business purposes, what’s your best bet?

A CASL compliance program is considered the gold-standard and best in breed where it comes to protecting yourself against hefty fines. Remember CASL applies to individual emails as much as group emails and newsletters regardless of whether there is promotion content or not.

Implementing a CASL compliance program, that meets all the requirements of the CRTC, is not only required by the law in Canada, but by doing so, you’ll increase your protection with regards to GDPR.



0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *