Abbie Oguntade, the vice-president of UK and Northern Europe for dating giant Match.com, has said brands already “respectful” in the way they handle consumer data shouldn't be fazed by the impending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws.
Recent studies have suggested that as many as 60% of European businesses aren't prepared for the legislation, which comes into force on 25 May. And where brands like Lloyds have overhauled their entire digital marketing strategies, Oguntade believes that data-driven businesses like Match won't face much of an undertaking.
Though agreeing that there are likely to be “teething problems” as marketers grapple with how to incentivise consumers to share data without compromising user experiences, Oguntade said: “Companies have always had an obligation to protect consumers and to respect the use of their data,” adding that it was then only right that any changes required as a result of GDPR were implemented.
“If you’re a company that is respectful of that then it shouldn't be too difficult to get around it,” continued Oguntade.
But there is evidence to the contrary. The hack of distinct affair-enabling app Ashley Maddison cost the company $11m in fines after the data of up to 37 million users was leaked.
In some cases, dating services (much like social networks) know more about consumers and their behaviour than users do themselves. These platforms have access to personal and potentially sensitive data, voluntarily offered up by users.
A recent investigation by The Guardian into how much data Match's sister company Tinder holds on subscribers, illuminated the lack of user awareness around how this information is stored and used. The journalist who requested her dataset from the company as part of the report was sent back an 800-page opus containing everything from her Facebook likes and every single 'match' she'd scored on the service. A data scientist described the contents as "horrifying but not surprising."
But the assurance of security is the lifeblood of dating and personals sites.
So, come May it's likely that a spotlight will be shone on Match and its competitors to see exactly how they are handling GDPR, and responding to any related data requests.
Oguntade iterated that tenets of the directive like data protection and consent are already a highly important part of Match’s business. While she acknowledged that the dating giant is "hugely aware" of the implications of the EU rules, she was clear that this doesn't mean it hasn't committed significant resource to ensure it’s on the right side of the law come May.
“We have a hefty and experienced team, that have been working hard on it to make sure our policies and programmes will be compliant with the new standards,” she noted.
“While it’s something we’re ensuring we’re absolutely on point with, I have to be honest and say it’s not a huge undertaking because we have always taken the privacy stuff seriously and I genuinely mean that.
Match, part of the same group as OK Cupid and Plenty of Fish among other dating brands, is having its GDPR efforts spearheaded by its global privacy director Idriss Kechida, and has also enlisted the business leaders of each region to get involved in strategy meetings and to help implement plans.
This GDPR team includes a dedicated data privacy lawyer who works across Match’s global markets – including those outwith the EU who will also be affected by the directive.
In addition to this, Match has conducted interviews with any departments which “touch data” to ensure that there’s full awareness on the EU’s regulations and what they entail.
In Oguntade's words, the company will be "ready to roll" by the time GDPR is implemented in the spring.
However, it's clear that while it is prepared, the brand isn't getting complacent in the face of fines for non-compliance. As per GDPR guidelines these could clock in at $20m (£18m) a pop or 4% of annual turnover; which for Match Group as a whole would be a $44m slice of the $1.1bn yearly revenues it recorded in 2016.