Over a two week period during summer 2017, over 22,000 consumers unwittingly agreed to carry out 1000 hours of work, including “cleaning portable lavatories at local festivals and events” and “manually relieving sewer blockages”, when signing up for free Wi-fi.

Luckily for the unsuspecting users, the stunt was part of an experiment by Wi-Fi provider Purple, which added a “Community Service Clause” to its terms in order to highlight both the importance of reading Ts & Cs in full, and to maximise exposure of the announcement that the company has apparently become the first GDPR-compliant Wi-Fi provider – a year in advance of the deadline.

 

Purple, community service in exchange for wifi. Foresight Factory blog

The need for transparency

On May 25th 2018, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into effect, bringing with it the requirement for companies to seek consent from users within Europe for collecting their data – in an intelligible format, which clearly states how the company uses the data it gathers. As Purple’s endeavours show, there is an opportunity here for companies to comply with GDPR via creative and transparent communication about how personal data is processed, whilst driving engagement with users.

The consumer desire for more behind-the-scenes information about how companies operate has been tracked by Foresight Factory since 2009 in the trend Managed Transparency. Whilst consumers do desire transparency in corporate communications, for the most part, consumers are unwilling or unable to scrutinise every brand they interact with regarding every claim or action – generally because this kind of information tends to be jargon-laden, lengthy and sometimes intentionally ambiguous. This is perhaps why over one fifth of GB consumers admit to accepting terms and conditions from companies they use online without reading them at all. In good news for time tight consumers, Purple also reduced the word count of its privacy policy to 260 words, down from 1600 in accordance with the new guidelines.

And as a result of GDPR, when it comes to data privacy, companies with European customers will be obliged to share information intelligibly and transparently. By putting terms and conditions front and centre and forcing consumers to actively opt in (and not out), GDPR gives brands another touchpoint to engage consumers – not just by making information concise but by imbuing it with personality too.

 

Legal information can be personable

43% of global consumers agree that they like brands that “do not take themselves too seriously” – a sentiment we track in the trend The Self-Satirising Brand, which can even encompass legal matters. In September, the programme Stranger Things sent a cease and desist letter sent to a pop up Stranger Things themed bar. The letter was peppered with cute references to the show opening with “my walkie talkie is busted so I had to write this note instead” and threatened legal action if the bar did not close with “the Demogorgon is not always as forgiving. So please don’t make us call your mom”.

Soon, a world of murky terms and conditions and data processing information will be but a distant memory (at least in theory). But will standardised (albeit shortened and simplified) terms and conditions continue to be the norm? And will your brand take the opportunity presented by GDPR to engage on a deeper level?

 

This segment was taken from a new content type on our trends and data platform, FFonline. If you’re interested in reading similar reports, please request a free demo.