With the latest news that Google will follow Apple, a cookieless future is inevitable. The need for transparency in data collection is now vital with legislation including General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), both of which can result in hefty fines for businesses that are non-compliant. With additional legislation likely to be introduced at the State level, enterprises must start preparing for the new reality and rethink how they collect data and put a premium on the user experience.
This will result in a paradigm shift in everything from business models to technology stacks used for websites. And, of course, to legal compliance with regards to data collection. Both the CCPA and GDPR contain language that affects how organizations must manage consent for cookies.
Cookies are stored on a person’s device and websites use them to make the user experience more engaging and personalized. With their demise and the uptick in privacy regulations, organizations need to adopt the four steps below in order to be compliant and continue to prosper.
1. Build trust through transparency with users
As users become more aware of their data rights and increasingly value their privacy, they are no longer blindly giving consent to everyone. Trust now has to be earned and this requires organizations to be transparent about their data collection practices. Unless companies put users at ease when visiting their digital properties, they will not earn and maintain trust. Those organizations that are transparent about their data practices will stay on the right side of compliance regulations and have users who are happy to share their first-party data.
2. Undertake an audit of all digital properties
With the vast amount of information organizations now collect, process and store, it’s vital to prioritize data management. A critical step in ensuring compliance is to regularly audit digital properties to identify any compliance issues. This requires reviewing applicable legislation, internal compliance requirements and any industry standards.
The team carrying out the audit should include a mix of skills spanning front-end developers, content managers, writers, designers, marketers, and anyone else who deals with content for the businesses’ digital properties. The audits should happen at regular intervals, such as every quarter, to ensure that an organization remains compliant.
As part of the audit, organizations should document the findings so they can review the current and previous website content archives should an issue arise. In addition, the results should determine the areas that need improvement and inform the next audit. Compliance is an ongoing journey with no destination in sight and by documenting everything, companies have a record of progress in case it’s ever requested.
3. Automate compliance where possible to avoid fines
To further optimize compliance efforts, a range of software solutions can help automate the detection of issues and document site user and cookie consent. Of course, any areas identified still require attention to resolve the problem; however, these solutions can make the process more efficient and ensure that no compliance issues slip through the cracks. As privacy regulation continues to increase, automation will become essential in order to keep abreast with the complexity and breadth of the different legislations.
4. Create a digital experience that is accessible
Creating a user experience that delights is vital to get users to share their data with cookies phasing out. Therefore, digital properties must be accessible to as many people as possible, never mind it being the right thing to do.
Website accessibility includes looking at elements such as image descriptions, anchor text, captions, and more technical aspects like how easy it is to navigate a site without a mouse. Practices that improve web accessibility help not only people with disabilities but every website visitor, including aging populations and people with slow internet access. When it comes to an individual’s data, the consent banner must also be accessible so that every user can freely opt-in, customize their preferences, or completely opt-out.
By adopting these recommendations, organizations can stay on the right side of regulation and meet the needs of users. By placing the customer experience at the heart of digital strategies and building a reputation for secure, transparent user engagement online, companies can see increased brand loyalty as well as higher conversions despite the removal of cookies. Ensuring compliance reduces an organization’s risk and provides a competitive advantage.