In today’s world of constant connectivity and digital sharing— where data is everywhere and highly valued— the idea of giving permission is a basic requirement. But what does it really mean to give explicit permission, and why is it such a big deal when it comes to keeping our data safe and secure? Let’s dive into the world of expressed consent, exploring why it matters so much in protecting our privacy, keeping our information secure, and making sure things are done responsibly, especially as we navigate the complexities of artificial intelligence (AI).

What is Expressed Consent?

In simple terms, expressed consent is the explicit permission given by an individual for the collection, use, and sharing of their personal data. It’s the gold standard of consent, where individuals are fully aware of what they’re agreeing to and actively grant permission for specific purposes. Think of it as giving your unequivocal “yes” to a request, whether it’s subscribing to a newsletter, allowing cookies on a website, or consenting to have your data used for targeted advertising.

The Importance of Expressed Consent

Expressed consent is the cornerstone of ethical data practices, fostering trust between individuals and organizations. When individuals are empowered to make informed decisions about their data, they become active participants rather than passive subjects in the data ecosystem.

On top of that, expressed consent aligns with regulatory frameworks like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which emphasize the need for clear and unambiguous consent mechanisms. Failure to adhere to these regulations can result in hefty fines and reputational damage for non-compliant organizations.

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Expressed vs. Implied Consent: Understanding the Difference

In contrast to expressed consent, implied consent operates on assumptions or actions that suggest consent, such as continuing to use a service without actively opting out of data collection practices. While it may suffice in certain scenarios, expressed consent sets a higher bar for transparency and accountability, ensuring individuals have genuine control over their personal information.

Examples of Expressed Consent

  • Newsletter Subscriptions: When individuals willingly provide their email addresses and explicitly opt-in to receive newsletters or promotional updates from an organization, they are giving expressed consent. This clear indication of interest and agreement demonstrates their willingness to share their personal information for specific purposes.
  • Online Purchases: When customers make online purchases, they often need to provide personal information such as their name, address, and payment details. By completing the transaction and agreeing to the terms of service, customers are expressly consenting to the collection and use of their data for the purpose of fulfilling the order.
  • Cookie Consent: Many websites display cookie banners or pop-ups informing visitors about the use of cookies for tracking and analytics purposes. Users are typically given the option to accept or decline the use of cookies, thereby providing expressed consent for their data to be collected and processed for website optimization.
  • Medical Consent Forms: In healthcare settings, patients are required to sign consent forms before undergoing medical procedures, treatments, or surgeries. These forms outline the risks, benefits, and alternatives of the proposed intervention, ensuring that patients provide informed and expressed consent before proceeding.

5 Ways Organizations Can Ensure Expressed Consent is Clear

1. Transparent Communication

Organizations should communicate clearly and transparently about their data collection practices, including the purposes for which data will be used and any third parties involved. This information should be easily accessible and written in plain language that is understandable to the average user.

2. Opt-In Mechanisms

Rather than relying on pre-checked boxes or assumptions of consent, organizations should use explicit opt-in mechanisms that require individuals to take affirmative action to consent. This could involve clicking a button, checking a box, or providing a digital signature to signify agreement.

3. Granular Consent Options

Provide individuals with granular control over their consent preferences, allowing them to choose which types of data they are comfortable sharing and for what purposes. This could involve offering different consent options for marketing communications, data sharing with third parties, or targeted advertising.

4. Easily Reversible Consent

Ensure that individuals have the ability to revoke their consent at any time and easily opt out of data collection or processing activities. Organizations should provide clear instructions on how to withdraw consent and make the process as straightforward as possible.

5. Consent Management Platforms

Implement consent management platforms or tools that facilitate the management and tracking of user consent preferences. These platforms can help organizations maintain compliance with regulations such as GDPR by keeping records of consent transactions and providing mechanisms for individuals to exercise their rights.

Download the Consent & Preferences Data Sheet.

Can Consent Be Withdrawn?

Yes, consent can be withdrawn. Individuals have the right to withdraw their consent for the collection, use, and processing of their personal data at any time. This principle is fundamental to data privacy regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

When consent is withdrawn, organizations must promptly cease any processing activities that were based on that consent and refrain from further using the individual’s personal data for those purposes. This includes stopping any marketing communications, halting data sharing with third parties, and removing the individual’s data from any databases or systems used for processing.

It’s important for organizations to provide clear mechanisms for individuals to withdraw their consent, such as through an opt-out link in marketing emails or a dedicated consent management portal. Additionally, organizations should ensure that the process for revoking consent is as simple and straightforward as possible, in compliance with regulatory requirements.

Challenges and Considerations

While expressed consent is a crucial safeguard for data privacy, it’s not without its challenges, especially in an AI-driven landscape. As AI algorithms become more sophisticated in analyzing vast amounts of data, there’s a risk of individuals losing control over how their data is used. Consider the use of facial recognition technology, where consent may be implicit rather than expressed, leading to concerns about surveillance and privacy infringement.

Moreover, the complexity of AI systems makes it difficult for individuals to fully comprehend the implications of their consent. Research suggests that many users struggle to understand privacy policies and the consequences of data sharing, highlighting the need for simpler, more transparent consent mechanisms.

The Evolution of Expressed Consent in the Age of AI

As AI continues to permeate various aspects of our lives, the landscape of expressed consent is undergoing significant shifts. One notable development is the rise of contextual consent, where consent requests are tailored to specific contexts and user preferences. For example, AI-powered personalization engines can dynamically adjust consent prompts based on user behavior and preferences, enhancing transparency and relevance.

Additionally, advancements in AI technology, such as federated learning and differential privacy, offer promising avenues for preserving privacy while still enabling data analysis. These techniques allow data to be processed and analyzed without exposing sensitive information, offering a middle ground between data utility and privacy protection.

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Looking Ahead: The Future of Expressed Consent

As we look to the future, the importance of expressed consent will only grow in significance. With emerging technologies like AI, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT) reshaping the data landscape, it’s imperative that we uphold principles of transparency, accountability, and individual autonomy.

Innovations such as privacy-preserving AI algorithms and decentralized identity solutions hold the potential to empower individuals with greater control over their data while enabling responsible data usage. However, realizing this vision requires collaboration between policymakers, technologists, and society at large to ensure that expressed consent remains a fundamental right in the digital age.

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Leveraging BigID for Privacy Consent

BigID’s industry leading platform enables organizations to know their data and take action for privacy, security, and governance to address challenges across all types of data, at a petabyte-scale, on-prem and in the cloud. BigID’s Consent Governance App enables businesses to capture, manage and automate the entire consent lifecycle with a consistent user experience across the brand. In addition, marketing and privacy professionals can centralize consent across channels, systems, and apps to achieve compliance, reduce risk and avoid hefty fines.

  • Capture, manage, correlate and sync all customer consent types across channels, systems, and apps
  • Maintain and centralize records of each customer interaction (end-user choices) with clear context
  • Achieve legal compliance with privacy regulations like GDPR, CCPA, CPRA, LGPD, & more
  • Automate opt-out requests like “do not sell” and “do not share
  • Gain consent for ad targeting, direct marketing, and the processing of personal & sensitive data
  • Seamless integration with marketing and other consent platforms

Get a 1:1 demo with our privacy experts to see how BigID’s Privacy Suite can help your organization gain more value from your data and achieve compliance