Forbes.com: GDPR Gives European Tech Companies A Major Advantage, Two EU-Based CMOs Say
Because of the emergence of GDPR, Europe is taking the global lead in technology innovation while other regions are distracted by compliance issues, two CMOs from French ad-tech companies suggested this week.
The two executives offered a European perspective on the impact of GDPR—the European Union’s General Data Privacy Regulation—in the nine months since its implementation last May. They noted both strategic and practical changes, and offered lessons learned and predictions for what may happen in North America going forward.
The executives are Nicolas Rieul, CMO and chief strategy officer of the Paris-based S4M, which uses ad tech to track the connection between digital advertising and offline buying; and Michael Nevins, CMO of Smart, an ad server and RTB platform, also based in Paris. They agree that U.S. companies need to learn from the European GDPR experience and make data collection and usage a central part of their business models.
Adds Rieul, “Clearly, consumer privacy is something that companies can no longer dismiss as unimportant. But it’s amazing how much corporations, like people, can remain in denial. While we expect overall a heightened prioritization of compliance, don’t be shocked if you still see a sizable part of the U.S. digital advertising market approach 2020 in an immature way.”
Smart’s Nevins called GDPR a wake-up call but said that even now, nine months in, alignment across all of the European Union countries has yet to be fully achieved. “It can’t only be about revenue and performance— responsible data collection and privacy compliance have to be as high a priority,” he says. “The user has to be given full control and transparency throughout the process.”
Rieul in particular stressed the broader strategic idea that GDPR was designed from the start to end American hegemony in technology innovation. There’s an expression, he said: America innovates, China copies, and Europe regulates. “Imagine what our European market would look like if we had regulated even earlier, say 20 years ago,” he says. “If that had been the case, Google and Facebook would not have been allowed to enter Europe and become the global behemoths they are today.”
Indeed, he says, Europe might have operated from the same playbook that the Chinese did in the way they protected their national interests on the Internet. Despite the criticism, Rieul says, the Chinese held fast and protected their market, and homegrown companies like Alibaba and Tencent emerged.
Ironically, it’s U.S. that’s now taking the Balkanized approach to privacy regulation. The California Consumer Privacy Act, which is similar to the GDPR, is set to go into effect next year. It is sure to spur action in Congress to take a nationwide approach, though that may or may not happen before the CCPA takes effect.
Both Rieul and Nevins say their companies have an advantage in U.S. operations as a result of GDPR. “With its French roots, devotion to consumer privacy and data is nothing new for Smart,” Nevins says. “France has always been a forerunner in privacy protections (the first French data law is 40 years old). GDPR has reinforced this but the foundations were already erected.”
Rieul says CCPA is likely a precursor to a federal privacy act. “It seems completely unwieldy and impractical to have fragmented privacy regulation differing from state to state,” he says. “If so, the U.S. will move in reverse of the European Union. The EU created GDPR in order to apply the same regulation in 28 countries to allow companies to scale their businesses across the EU more easily. It makes sense for the U.S to follow that approach.”
“For once, what we are experiencing in EU will help us in the U.S. market,” Rieul adds. “We will be fully prepared for CCPA and any federal regulation to follow.”
This article was originally published on Forbes.com