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Are networking events a data risk?

Most Shropshire businesses should by now be aware of the new data protection rules that will come into force in just a few weeks. 

But how will the legislation affect any contact details you collect at networking events across the county? 

Graham Davies (pictured), of Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said: “It’s a tried and tested approach – you attend a networking meeting and automatically swap business cards with the other people you meet at the event. 

“But under the new General Data Protection Regulation policy that takes effect on May 25th, surely you’re breaching the rules unless you inform your new contacts about how you’re planning to use the information?

“In fact, as you have exchanged personal data at a business event, it’s clear that both parties can reasonably expect their new contact will be in touch at a later date – otherwise why would you have handed over your business card? 

“So in this situation, under GDPR you wouldn’t need to request permission to use the contact details, and you can rely on the fact your new contacts must have been interested in hearing from you by virtue of them giving you their details.” 

Mr Davies said technically the new rules would require you to provide a full description of how you were planning to use the information, but common sense should be applied. 

“If you’re hosting an exhibition stand at the networking event and collecting business cards from delegates, you’d be wise to display a statement that explains you may use the details later. 

“If you don’t have a stand, maybe ask your new contact if they’d like to be included on your mailing list as they hand over their card – you need to make sure they realise that you may be in touch. 

“Then when you first make contact following the event, ensure there’s a clear link to your privacy notice, and always remind your contacts that they have the right to opt out of any further marketing communications. 

“The new GDPR rules are complicated and will apply to all businesses, regardless of their size or sector, but when it comes to face-to-face networking, there is room for more flexibility given the setting where it happens.”

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