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Will Personal Data Protection Bill mean the death of personalised advertising?

Industry leaders tell that the bill will definitely add some steps but at the same time make the system more robust

Ending the free run of marketers to reach out to their target audiences across platforms and devices, the upcoming Personal Data Protection Bill will make personalised advertising dependent on the users’ consent and intent, say industry leaders.

The proposed bill will limit the ability of marketers to reach out to users and will also end up making the process a lot costlier. The bill puts heavy restrictions on the use and processing of data. And in the case of sensitive data, it has the data localisation clause.

Also read: The likely impact of Personal Data Protection bill on marketing and social media platforms

The government of India drafted the Personal Data Protection Bill on the lines of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and tabled it in Parliament on December 11. It is being reviewed by a joint panel of Parliament.

Anand Bhadkamkar

“The Data Protection Bill gives certain rights to the data subject/principal. The bill is giving them more control over their data. However, using the correct processes would not hamper most of the day-to-day digital marketing business. Under the bill, if the data principal provides his/her explicit consent), only then a firm can process or store the personal data. If marketing firms are collecting the consents properly and are following all the other requirements, then that should not be a concern. The focus of marketers always is to communicate the message to the ultimate user in the least disruptive manner. Hence consent-based, personalised marketing should not be an issue as well,” said Anand Bhadkamkar, CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network India.

If the bill is passed in the current form and shape, the companies will have to take explicit consent from users before processing personal data and inform the user about the nature and categories of data being collected and the purpose for which it will be processed. The user will have to be informed about other entities the data will be shared with.

Shrenik Gandhi

Shrenik Gandhi, CEO and Co-founder, White Rivers Media, believes that it shall rather begin the death of fraudulent advertisers. “Personalised advertising when followed by relevant consent makes a lot of sense and avoids impression wastage. Hence it shall make truly intent-driven personalised advertising a lot better,” he said.

While the consumers are chased by the brands at every possible communication touchpoint, personalised marketing has somewhere started losing its importance. According to Jatin Modi, Founder and CEO, FrogIdeas Marketing, it will be the death of spam from all digital and social platforms.

“As the spam reduces, it will help marketers to be more effective in personalised marketing. It's easier to show consumers when marketers have consent on what the consumers would like to consume and capture similar interests. It will definitely prove to be better for marketers and consumers to act responsibly,” Modi said.

Talking about the wider impact of the Data Protection Bill, Bhadkamkar said it will definitely make the processes around the collection and use of data much more robust and with more power to the user; data subject.

“This will definitely have some effect on the way digital marketing/advertising agencies operate. The bill once enacted will force digital marketers to change their strategy of using behavioural data or profiling for delivery of personalised advertising,” he said.

Gandhi of White River Media sees this bill as a course correction for the entire digital marketing ecosystem. “I think such course corrections are a way to go and this bill shall play an important catalyst in making digital all the more mainstream,” he said.

The bill has divided data into three segments — personal, sensitive personal and critical personal. The data that has been defined as sensitive or critical has to be stored in India.

This especially means that if the global ad networks or platforms are storing your health and financial data among other things, it has to be in India. Even if it goes to their global headquarters for processing, user consent will be required.

The implication is the increase in the cost of operations for marketing agencies on account of storage and robust processing.

“Yes, this adds steps to the current process that agencies follow. But at the same time, it is making the customer more aware of how personal data is being used. It also makes the process more transparent for the user. Marketers will need to adopt alternative ways of targeting as well, based on the general interests of the viewers who are viewing the content, eg. contextual advertisement,” said Bhadkamkar.

“In all, the entire life cycle of data (collection, storage, usage, transfer and destruction) needs to be adequately maintained by the data fiduciary as per the recommendations of the bill. The Data Protection Bill is seeking to provide a framework for protecting data privacy and setting privacy norms; and is evolving. In the coming months, we will have better clarity on the same,” Bhadkamkar concluded.

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