Insights Information Commissioner’s Office publishes new guidance on direct marketing and the public sector

The new guidance aims to help those responsible for data protection within public sector organisations understand when the direct marketing rules will apply to their messages.

The ICO explains that direct marketing is broad and covers all types of advertising or marketing that is directed at individuals. It involves any type of communication including emails, text messages, direct messaging on social media and more traditional methods such as phone calls and post. It includes commercial marketing (e.g. the promotion of products and services) as well as aims and ideals (e.g. fundraising and campaigning).

Any sector or type of organisation is capable of engaging in direct marketing. The majority of messages that public authorities send to individuals are unlikely to constitute direct marketing, but there are times when the rules will apply.

If a message is direct marketing, public authorities need to comply with the marketing rules in the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 if they are using electronic communications. However, regardless of whether a promotional message is direct marketing or not, public authorities must still comply with the requirements of the UK GDPR.

The UK GDPR also gives people a right to object, and this may apply even if a promotional message is not direct marketing. The new guidance has more details on when this right might apply. To read the ICO’s press release in full and to access the new guidance, click here.