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Digital marketers should not see the POPIA as a stumbling block in their campaigns. Supplied/DSM/SHUTTERSTOCK
Digital marketers should not see the POPIA as a stumbling block in their campaigns. Supplied/DSM/SHUTTERSTOCK

Data privacy is a big issue in digital marketing. This is because it is easy for less-than-honest individuals to intercept someone’s personal information (name, address or telephone number), using channels such as social media, and then using the information to exploit that person.

Most countries have laws in place to safeguard personal data. SA’s data privacy law is the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA).

Here’s what digital marketing experts need to know about this law.

What is the personal information that POPIA protects?

The POPIA protects the information that identifies a person or “data subjects”. This type of information relates to, for example, a person’s:

  • race, gender or marital status;
  • views, opinions or preferences; and
  • private correspondence.

An example of personal information that is relevant to the digital marketer is the collection of email addresses for the company’s email marketing campaigns. As this type of information is now protected by the POPIA as personal information, it needs to be treated in a very specific manner.

Personal information must be processed lawfully

People have specific rights when it comes to their personal information and what third-party companies do with it. Legally speaking, what third-party companies do with the personal information is called processing. This needs to happen lawfully or in accordance with legislation.

Processing involves actions such as:

  • collecting the personal information; and
  • sending out additional information to data subjects because the third party has their personal information.

Storage of personal information

“Digital marketers must be very careful of how they collect people’s email addresses for their email marketing campaigns,” says Lisa Schneider, MD of the Digital School of Marketing. “If they do so in ways that are against the principles of the POPIA, they could be subject to hefty fines.”

A good practice to adopt when collecting email addresses is to have a sign-up form on your website so that people can volunteer to receive information from your company. If you have multiple newsletters and marketing mailers that your digital marketing department sends out, make sure that when people indicate that they want to sign up to your newsletter, you present them with a list of options that they can choose from.

In addition, you always need to give subscribers the option of unsubscribing from your mailing list if they no longer want to receive your newsletter. This is usually done by including an “opt out” option on your newsletter or marketing mailer.

The rights of the data subject

The data subject is not a passive player in terms of personal information. Previously, there was no control over, for example, who had access to a cellphone number or email address; now, should contact details unlawfully get into the hands of direct marketing companies, a person can do something about this.

For example, people or data subjects have the right to:

  • be notified when their personal information is being collected;
  • request that a third party's record of their personal information be destroyed; and
  • object to the third party processing their personal information in the first place.

Digital marketers must not see the POPIA as a stumbling block in their campaigns. The new regulations are a way of developing relationships of trust with clients and engaging them more so that these people will want to be part of the company’s communication strategy.

The Digital School of Marketing aims to teach students only the best digital marketing practices out there. This is why the school is backed by well-known bodies such as the Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority.

“We believe that digital marketing is the essential skill of the future and it is our aim to bring quality education and learning in this field to students who are keen to become qualified in digital marketing," says Schneider.

To find out more about the accredited digital marketing course, as well as other online digital marketing courses, visit the Digital School of Marketing website, call 0861 428 710 or email info@digitalschoolofmarketing.co.za.

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This article was paid for by the Digital School of Marketing.