As of January 1, 2020, you and I can no longer ignore the privacy implications of our podcasting efforts. But you also don’t need to get a law degree. You also don’t need to take up arms. You just need to be smart.
Privacy is in the news in a big way as we begin 2020. Though the current focus certainly isn’t new. Remember Cambridge Analytica? Big companies with big data who are manipulating our tiny little brains into doing things that aren’t necessarily in our best interest.
There’s also the issue of potential governmental oversight. Will jackbooted thugs come cracking down your door when they discover that you spend some time on a forum with questionable content?
Or it may be as simple as questioning whether or not you want big companies tracking what you buy or are interested in so they can serve you ads that are kind of creepy and weird. Have you noticed that sometimes you see ads for things you just talked about a few minutes ago? Does that mean our smart devices are listening to us?
Privacy is in the news and with CCPA, the California Consumer Protection Privacy Act and GDPR, which is the European regulation that stands for… Well, I used to know, I don’t remember any longer. Now that both of these regulations are the law of land (because Europe’s pretty big and you probably do some business in California), privacy has become an issue. As working podcasters, as I said at the beginning of the program, we can no longer ignore privacy issues.
You’re going to have to do bit of educating yourself. This episode is not here to educate you all about the vagaries of the GDPR or the CCPA. I’m not here to tell you exactly what you should do to make sure you’re 100% compliant in all of this. Because you’re a working podcaster. You’re probably not a technologist. You’re probably not a lawyer. You probably don’t need to know all the vagaries of things. You’ll just want to make sure you don’t run afoul of the law.
Instead, I want to help you understand what you need to do to make sure that your podcast is most likely to be compliant.
No, you’re not going to have to go get a law degree to understand my suggestions.
No, you’re not going have to break out your engineering degree or computer programming skills to implement my suggestions.
Instead, I’m offering up some common sense stuff to help make sure your podcast is on the right side of these coming podcast privacy wars, which are just getting started.
Step 1: Understand Where Your Podcast May Have Possible Privacy Implications
Remember that the spirit around the CCPA is to protect the privacy of consumers. In our case, that means the people who subscribe and/or listen to our podcast episodes. It’s incumbent upon us to ensure that their privacy is not violated as they go about the natural process of listening to our content.
The way computers work, they’re capturing information about the computers accessing other bits of stuff on the internet all the time. You can’t stop that. When you open up your email, the computer knows it’s you. That’s expected.
So the CCPA, as well as GDPR and lots of other regulations yet unveiled, is designed to make sure the data captured about people listening to your podcast don’t violate personal privacy, and that they aren’t shared with other services who might violate said privacy.
Of course, you wouldn’t do this. You’re a nice person. I’m a nice person. We’re not actively trying to violate the privacy of people. But your podcast might be leaking information and not knowing it. To ensure you are not, you need to understand the technology stack involved. Not deeply. Just enough to know how it happens. And that’s covered by having an understanding of these four general areas:
- Where the media files are serving from — The audio files (or I suppose video, if you’re doing video as well) that your audience consumes.
- Where the RSS feed(s) are serving from — The file that lets apps and directories know that you have a new episode to send to your listeners.
- Where your website is hosted — Your show’s home on the web for people who aren’t yet listeners.
- Companies/services that sell and place ads in your show’s episodes — If, in fact, your show is big enough to warrant ad sales.
- (I missed this in the audio, but…) Companies/services you use to track any activity regarding listeners/viewers of your content.
It’s not important that you understand how it all works. For this suggestion, it’s to enough understand who the players are. Your media files are hosted by your podcast hosting company, right? Your RSS feed is probably generated by your podcast hosting company, right? Your website is hosted on SiteGuard or Squarespace or some other service like that. And if you’re using any sort of inserted advertising that either track or allows for the automatic/dynamic insertion of ads for your show, you need to understand who those technology players are.
(If you want to dig into how they work, knock yourself out, but honestly, you probably don’t want to do that. Just understand who those players are.)
Step 2: Disclose Those Players On Your Podcast’s Privacy Page
No, this isn’t a get out of jail free card. But it does signal that you understand that privacy is a concern, and you’re being transparent about the companies you’re using to power your podcast.
Step 3: Prepare For Change
CCPA just hit at the start of January 2020, and I’d be lying to you if I said there weren’t big changes coming. I’d be lying to you if I said that some of the companies you’re using today to do those various services that I mentioned are likely to be swept up in this and, for better or worse, knocked out of business. I’d be lying to you if I said that wasn’t going to happen. So the last thing that you have to do is prepare to change. Quickly.
If you take the time to follow the technology path of your files, you’ll survive the Podcast Privacy Wars. If you know every player who touches data generated by your podcast, you’ll survive the Podcast Privacy Wars. If you know everyone you’ve asked to help in the process of disseminating your podcast, you’ll survive the Podcast Privacy Wars.
If you’ve understood that, have disclosed that, and have linked to the various privacy policies, you’ll survive the Podcast Privacy Wars. And if you’re ready to make a quick change to adapt to this fast-moving realities, making sure you’re not too far in bed with any player, you’ll survive the Podcast Privacy Wars.
That’s how you survive this coming privacy war in podcasting. Not by jumping into the fray, or taking up pitchforks. But simply by making sure that you are doing your part in the process. And that’s it. Let other people who have more passion than you fight this out. Unless you’re the person that has the passion. If so, go for it! I’ll be making the popcorn. And more podcast episodes.
Since you got this far, how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!
This article started life as a podcast episode. The 247th episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.