The quick read summary...
If you use bolt-on apps to run your events, do you realise that you're spreading your data to those providers as well and you need to have clear documentation to show where responsiblity lies if there's a problem? If you are keen to show that you want to protect your clients' data, carefully check your suppliers and know where they are keeping that data and what they will do with it. If you show that you are responsible with data, your audience will have the same confidence.
Or do you assume that each piece of event tech treats data like you do? I'm a bit of a nerd in that respect and a few things that I've seen recently, I've been quite worried about.
Tech kept us in touch during the pandemic
Zoom is a fantastic thing. Don't get me wrong. It's saved us during the pandemic, hasn't it? I've managed to keep in touch with business networking, the volunteer work that I do and aged aunts and all because of the wonderful Zoom.
Third party organisations
But now I'm worried. Because we're all used to nice friendly Zoom, we've perhaps missed the innovations that the Zoom team have been making. And I'm not singling them out specifically, this applies to all social media tech. They've been partnering with third party organisations, which on the surface, doesn't sound a bad thing. It gives event organisers more toys to play with but if you think about it more deeply, these partners will now have access to your attendees' data because that's what happens to make the partnership work.
If you look at the app marketplaces of any of these apps, you'll see many, many companies that will provide you with all sorts of bolt-on goodies to make event organisation easier and I don't blame anyone for taking that route. Organising events is time consuming and fraught with difficulty, especially if you have things like pandemics throwing a spanner into the works but it throws up 2 questions for me.
Where does the buck stop?
The first is who has your data and the second, where does the buck stop when there's a problem. Under the UK GDPR, there has to be accountability and I think that it becomes a grey area when third party companies are used by the event organiser to sign up attendees. If you just use one app to register attendees, then the line of responsiblity is clear. You use the app, the attendees can see that you use one app and if there's a problem, the attendees know who to contact. If the app then uses a transcribing service to create transcripts of your meeting, who holds responsibility for the data and does the attendee know? Perhaps your attendees won't care, after all, many people use Facebook and Cambridge Analytica folded and quietly emerged as a different company a short while after their brief moment in the spotlight. But it's something that I think we should care about; UK GDPR allows us to know who has our data, why and for how long and event companies should be playing their part to make the handling of it as something special.
The attendee often doesn't have a choice
After all, the attendee doesn't have a choice over which event registration app to use to sign up for an event. Have you ever seen options given to attendees for them to sign up with a company that will guard their data as best they can and one which will share it around the place? If you have, please let me know because I've not seen it yet - perhaps it will come. I've been known not to sign up for business events because there's no clarity about who will have my data and I've missed running races because I'm not happy with where my data goes.
Have we forgotten the UK Data Protection Act?
Perhaps all that's happened with Covid has allowed event organisers to forget all the fuss and effort that went into the UK GDPR compliance? The law still applies to EU citizens though (even in the UK). An attendee is still a Data Subject and an event organiser collecting registration date is still a Data Controller and the penalties (both financial and reputational) for failing to manage data transparently still apply, whether the tick-box of acceptance for data usage creep looks compelling or not ...
In the meantime, I'll continue to be careful which events I'll sign up for based on how they handle my data, who they're paired with and how honest they are about who they deal with.