Data PrivacyMarketing Data Podcast

The State of Data Privacy in Europe vs. the United States

Over the last ten years, there’s been much more of a focus on privacy in Europe.

In the U.S., CAN-SPAM was the line in the sand and everyone got through that legislation. But in Europe, there are some really draconian measures that have come out. A lot of companies have corporate data policies driven more out of fear than necessity.

These are just some of the current differences in privacy and data handling between the U.S. and the UK. In this post, we summarize our recent interview with Karie Burt, VP International at MeritDirect, who explained that difference and others on the Corporate Data Show.


A UK client of ours purchased something recently. We produced a file of a few thousands records and either share-filed it or emailed it to them. Either way, there was no password for pickup and it wasn’t a locked sheet or anything. That’s pretty standard data delivery practice in the US.

We got a little slap on the hand and basically heard, “What horrendous security practices are these?” Shine some light here. Help the audience understand how to avoid the proverbial faux pas.


You’ve committed a cardinal sin there. I’ll come visit you in jail.

Seriously, though, there’s been much more of a focus on privacy in Europe. A lot of companies have corporate data policies driven more out of fear than necessity. That’s probably what you tapped into with your client: someone in Legal or Compliance said, “No pushing data around.”

the state of data privacy in europe vs. the united states

It’s indicative of a bigger issue. To my mind there’s become a blurring of business and consumer data. In the U.S., we sit down about to eat dinner and get a phone call asking us to support a charity. In the UK, there’s a movement to have people opt in receiving some of those communications.

To be honest, for you, me and the listeners, it’s frustrating. We’re trying to help our clients to sell products and services. We’re trying to send good offers, not junk.

You have to be protective of good data, because it’s a minefield, and not even a clear one. The GDPR, which is a European piece of legislation, was drafted before Brexit. And now that the UK have opted out of Europe, it’s going to be interesting to see what will happen.

It’s created a vacuum, and within the vacuum there can be an opportunity. If you look at Europe, you’ve got certain countries that take privacy very seriously (e.g., Germany, Austria). The UK is more akin to its U.S. cousin, where we have a more reasonable approach. But make no mistake: there will be legislation coming down the pike.

One of my objectives working with colleagues at MeritDirect is to help U.S. marketers navigate those troubled waters. Part of my job is to be mindful of what’s happening. I feel that as responsible marketers, we’re on the right side of the law, but we have to be careful about the way data is collected and used.

We have a lot less to fear than some companies that are trying to fleece our grandmothers out of their savings. I’m all for legislation against that end of the market. But I don’t want any of your listeners to be scared.

When I was in the UK recently, I met with a lot of people in the B2B marketing space who know I’ve lived in the U.S. for almost 20 years. The T-word came up: people have a genuine interest in president-elect Trump.

Whatever your politics, people are interested to see what his stance will be on privacy. At the end of the day, he’s very much pro-business, so for all of us as marketers, he may be thinking OK, I don’t like big government, I’m not interested in reining in commercial opportunities. So it could be interesting.

I’m all for best practices, but I’m also a businessperson and I’m for helping companies grow. I’m hoping any changes in legislation will have input from businesspeople.


Check out the full episode with Karie at And if you want to get in touch with Karie, you can reach her at

This post is based on a podcast interview with Karie Burt from MeritDirect. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Corporate Data Show.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.

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