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The legal challenges of personalization and how to overcome them

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    Szymon Lewandowski

Personalization is a buzzword that every marketer loves to use. But what does it really mean? And more importantly, what are the legal challenges that come with it? In this article, we will explore some of the common pitfalls of personalization and how to avoid them.

What are personalization and hyper-personalization?

Personalization and hyper-personalization are two marketing strategies that aim to tailor content, products, and services to individual customers based on their preferences, behavior, and needs. Personalization uses basic information such as name, location, or purchase history to create a more relevant and engaging experience for customers.

Hyper-personalization goes a step further by using real-time data and artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze customer behavior and buying patterns in order to deliver highly customized and contextualized offers and recommendations.

Why personalization is legally challenging?

Personalization is a powerful way to create tailored and relevant experiences for your customers. But it also comes with some legal challenges that you need to be aware of. In this article, we will explore some of the main issues that personalization poses for privacy, consent, and compliance.

One of the biggest legal challenges of personalization is data protection. Personalization relies on collecting and processing customer data, such as their preferences, behavior, location, and device. However, this data can also be considered personal information that belongs to the customer and needs to be protected from unauthorized access or misuse.

Depending on where your customers are located and where your business operates, you may need to comply with different data protection laws and regulations. For example, if you have customers in the European Union (EU), you need to follow the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which sets strict rules for how you can collect, store, use, and share customer data. Similarly, if you have customers in California (USA), you need to comply with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which gives customers more control over their data and how it is used.

The key requirements that these laws impose are:

  • Get consent before using customer data.
  • Explain what, why, how, who and when of data collection and use.
  • Honor customer data rights.
  • Secure customer data.
  • Report data breaches.

Failing to comply with these laws can result in hefty fines or legal actions from regulators or customers. Therefore, it is essential that you have a clear understanding of your legal obligations and responsibilities when it comes to personalization.

How to use personalization responsibly and effectively?

Personalization can offer many benefits for businesses such as increased customer loyalty, retention, satisfaction, conversion rates, and revenue. However, personalization also comes with risks such as violating customer privacy, creating ethical dilemmas, or alienating customers who feel overwhelmed or manipulated by too much personalization. To use personalization responsibly and effectively, businesses need to follow some best practices.

If you want to use customer data for marketing, research or any other purpose, you need to get their consent first. Consent means that they agree to share their information with you and understand how you will use it. Without consent, you may be violating their privacy rights and breaking the law. To get consent, you need to inform your customers clearly and honestly about what data you collect, why you collect it and who you share it with. You also need to give them a way to opt out or withdraw their consent at any time. Getting consent is not only ethical but also beneficial for your business. It can help you build trust and loyalty with your customers and improve your reputation.

Explain what, why, how, who and when of data collection and use

Data collection and use are essential for any organization that wants to understand its customers, improve its products or services, and make informed decisions. Data collection refers to the process of gathering information from various sources, such as surveys, interviews, sensors, or online platforms. Data use refers to the process of analyzing, interpreting, and applying the information to achieve specific goals or outcomes. Data collection and use should answer the following questions:

  • WHAT data is needed and for what purpose?
  • WHY is the data relevant and valuable?
  • HOW will the data be collected and stored?
  • WHO will have access to the data and how will it be protected?
  • WHEN will the data be used and updated?

Honor customer data rights

As a business that collects and uses customer data, you have a responsibility to respect their rights and preferences. Customers have the right to access, correct, delete, or restrict the processing of their personal data. They also have the right to object to certain uses of their data, such as for marketing purposes. You should honor these rights by providing clear and easy ways for customers to exercise them.

For example, you can include a link in your emails that allows customers to unsubscribe from your mailing list or update their preferences. You can also create a privacy policy that explains how you collect and use customer data, and how customers can contact you if they have any questions or requests. By honoring customer data rights, you can build trust and loyalty with your customers and comply with data protection laws.

Secure customer data

We know that a lot of data can help you understand your customers' needs, preferences and behavior, as well as improve your products and services. However, customer data also comes with a lot of responsibility. You need to protect it from unauthorized access, misuse and breaches. Here are some tips on how to secure customer data:

  • Use encryption: Make customer data unreadable with a key and update it regularly.
  • Implement access control: Define and verify who can access and use customer data and how.
  • Monitor and audit: Track and record customer data activities and events and check for breaches or policy violations.

Report data breaches

If you suspect that your company's data has been compromised, you should act quickly and responsibly. Here are some steps you can take to report a data breach:

  • Alert IT or security team and let them handle the breach.
  • Report the breach to other relevant parties as per company policies.
  • Document the breach details and actions taken.
  • Cooperate with company’s investigation and remediation.

Reporting a data breach is not only a legal obligation but also a professional duty. By following these steps, you can help protect your company's reputation and assets, as well as your own privacy and security.


Personalization is a powerful way to enhance customer experience and loyalty, but it also comes with legal challenges. The GDPR and CCPA sets strict rules for how personal data can be collected, processed and stored by businesses. Failing to comply with these rules can result in hefty fines and reputational damage.

Therefore, it is essential for businesses to follow the GDPR requirements when implementing personalization strategies. This includes obtaining valid consent from users, respecting their rights and preferences, ensuring data security and transparency, and conducting regular audits and assessments.

Read also: What is content-based filtering, how it works and who use it?