Don't ask for an address unless you need one
Don’t ask for an address unless you need one

Last week I booked on an event. It was a free event – no payments involved and no tickets required. When I got to the registration screen, the system started asking me for information. It wanted name, email, address and phone number. I can understand the need for my name and company name: this was going to be circulated on the attendees list. My email makes sense as it is my main method of contact but why do they need my address? They are not coming to visit me or posting me any information. Irritatingly, the fields were compulsory (and luckily they were not too hot on validation!).

This got me thinking as it links in nicely with the fanfare on the radio for the forthcoming Data Protection Bill – otherwise referred to as GDPR. It is designed to tighten up on the regulations around storage and use of personal information and will keep the UK in line with European legislation after Brexit.

Do you really need my address?

Even under the existing regulations, businesses have a duty of care for the personal data they gather. Mostly this data should be limited to the information needed to conduct business. At present, a lot of information is held and used with presumed consent. This is one of the things that the new bill will address.

There is also a responsibility to ensure that the information held is accurate. This is where our event organiser may start having issues. When a user is confronted with a request for a screenful of information that they either do not know or are unwilling to share, they will do one of two things:

  • They will leave and go elsewhere.
  • They will make it up.

In the case above, I wonder how many people entered a real or realistic address? More to the point, will it matter?

Think before you ask

There are some circumstances when the organiser may need to ask for an address: for security purposes perhaps. In this case, explaining the reason will reassure the visitor and encourage them to be helpful. In other cases, they may wish to collect stats on attendees, in which case asking for a town should suffice.

If, however, it is because it seems like a good thing to do or the information may come in useful some time, think again. IF YOU DO collect the data, you are responsible for keeping it safe and accurate. Is it worth the trouble?