Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Babson Entrepreneurs

All Things Data

Lunch and Learn with Pierce Atwood

During week 6 of Summer Venture Program, Jack Steele and Kyle Glover from Pierce Atwood LLP, a sponsor of the Summer Venture Program, spoke to our entrepreneurs about all things data (that is, the legality of data).

Kyle begun his talk with a simple question, “What is one way you use data?” Our participants shared that they use data for various reason, from analyzing customer data to ultimately generate revenue, to using data to formulate marketing tactics.

Clearly there are many ways companies use data, but before we went any further, Kyle made sure to define it. He broke up data into two categories, personal data and sensitive business information, and focused on the first of the two as it was more applicable to our startups. “Personal data is any information about a person or customer,” Kyle noted. He explained that the definition of personal data changes depending on the country one is in. For instance, Europe defines data in a broad manner – many things can be considered data (which proves to be trickier for businesses). The United States, on another note, is much more restrictive in the way it defines data. “Be sure to understand what counts as data in the various countries you do business in.”

Just as the definition of data varies depending on the country, so do to the policies surrounding the collection and storage of it. Geography really matters. Where you are getting your data from and when you are using it are both factors that play a key role in collecting personal information. With GDPR recently put into place, many companies are taking extra precaution in order to comply with the requirements of the legal framework. Kyle made it very clear that if you do have customers in Europe, and are collecting data from them, seek advice on GDPR.

“You should not only understand the laws in the country you are gathering data from. You must know your own data practices: how do you collect it? Where do you store it? What do you retain? For how long?” Kyle explained that fully knowing your data policies is key in understanding what you need to do to comply with the law. Start creating good data habits now, so that as you expand it easier to keep to strong data practices.

Along the lines of collection, storage, and usage of data, Kyle noted that most websites have a privacy/policy notice at the bottom of their site. “You need to be upfront with the people who visit your website,” Kyle stated. Your privacy notice you should be true and simple in describing what you are going to do with the data you collect. Some companies, he explained, include a terms of use as pop-up before entering the website’s landing page. This is a contract that people sign by virtue of coming onto the website. Although not required by the FTC, it is advisable to have one in case someone tries to sue you.

A popular question amongst our startups was about using customer data for marketing purposes in the United States. Kyle pointed out two things about this. The first is that in order to do a text or call campaign, you must have direct consent from your customer. This is not just something you can hide in your terms of use, rather, this needs to be clear and upfront. On the other hand, you do not need this same sort of consent with email campaigns. You just need to give your customers the opportunity to opt out of the email.

So, as an entrepreneur, where do you start? One way of going about doing this, Kyle suggested, is researching what your competitors are doing and modelling your plan after theirs. Laws for the usage of data are often times industry specific, so stay consistent with your competitors. Furthermore, be reasonable and responsible in the way that you store your data. “You do not need to spend a lot of money,” Kyle exclaimed. Just make sure to take the precautionary measures in protecting your and your customer’s data.

Kyle concludes his talk with one last piece of advice about data: tell your customers what you are going to do and then do it.