The last few years have seen a phenomenal revolution in digital spaces, which has completely transformed the way businesses deal with advertising, marketing, or any kind of data sharing. Further, most major privacy laws worldwide, such as the CCPA (California’s Consumer Privacy Act) or Europe’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) now demand that companies prioritize data privacy during specific data collection and processing efforts.

This creates a need for easy and effective mechanisms on websites that offer simple means for users to allow consent (also known as an “opt-in”) or refuse consent (also known as an “opt-out”) for withdrawing their consent at any point in time. 

Data protection laws like GDPR and CCPA have given a lot of traction to the concept of opt-in and opt-out, thus making it difficult to share or use people’s data without their consent unless for other lawful reasons. Opt-in and Opt-out are two mechanisms that have become quite popular to handle the consent requirements of the GDPR. 

This blog aims to explore the concept of opt-in vs. opt-out in more detail, including what they entail, their real-life use cases, and when/how to use them for data processing.

What is Opt-In Privacy Policy?

Opt-in essentially means that users offer their consent and will take affirmative action towards it. In simple words, the purpose of opt-in is to give permission or accept something. One of the most common ways businesses implement opt-in methods is through checkboxes. When given an option of a checkbox, the user must take action to check the box, which signifies their consent.

It is important to note that opting in can be used in a range of situations, including accepting the use of cookies, subscribing to business email/newsletter mailing lists, agreeing to their legal policies, permission to save user details, and more.

As the term suggests, opt-out primarily means that users take a desired action to withdraw their consent. In simple words, opt-out refers to the act of users withdrawing or refusing consent in response to a particular event/process.

Some of the examples of opt-out actions include unticking a previously ticked checkbox, not choosing to subscribe to a business newsletter, rejecting the use of cookies, not giving consent to save personal details, and more.

For example, here is how a global brand uses a pop-up opt-in banner to gain explicit consent from their users:

Opt-Out Cookie Consent Banner

Opt-in and Opt-out Real Life Use Cases

This section explores some real-life use cases for opt-in or opt-out options and how each of these are implemented:

  • Using Cookies

Many companies today use third-party cookies for analytical and advertising purposes. In such a case, explicit consent is requested from the users by providing them with a simple and clear opt-in/opt-out option.

How can you do this– You can implement an opt-in option here using cookies consent banners. 

Likewise, users must be given an option to withdraw or reject the usage of cookies should they deem fit. Cookie banners should either have a reject option or a link to manage cookies where they are given an option to choose what type of cookie they don’t want to store on their device.

  • Collecting personal data

Another common use case for opt-in is when you collect users’ personal data, including special categories of data, and when legal/contractual obligations, legitimate/public interest, or other legal basis of processing are not applicable.

How can you do this – There are several opt-in methods you can choose to request user consent, including opt-in buttons or links, consent forms on emails, paper forms, oral consent, yes/no options, preference dashboard settings, or opt-in boxes on paper/electronically.

Similarly, users also have the complete right to reject acquiescing to collect/process their data if they deem fit. In such cases, you need to either delete the data or temporarily terminate data processing. To implement this, you can include a contact point or a link to submit consent opt-out requests.

  • Collecting email addresses for newsletters and other marketing purposes

Often, businesses require the email addresses of their users to send them newsletters or other marketing updates. In such a scenario, it is necessary to seek their permission before storing their email ids on your database.

How can you do this – The best way to implement the opt-in options here include using website footers, inserting checkboxes at the end of forms and on business blog posts, or through emails sent to the customers.

Likewise, if the users feel the need to stop receiving such content on their email addresses, they should be able to easily unsubscribe by accessing an unsubscribe link in the emails or on the website.

How Opt-in/Opt-out are Related to GDPR and CCPA

OPT-in Under GDPR

As per the GDPR guidelines, personal data processing can only be performed after procuring consent from related individuals. Getting GDPR consent is a must only when a business processes the sensitive data of its users. These include genetic/biometric data, racial or ethnic origin, health data, political opinions, sexual orientation, religious or philosophical data, etc.

To be able to process any such sensitive personal information, businesses need to take explicit consent from their users via opt-in or other suitable methods. Opt-in under the GDPR primarily applies to any organization operating within the EU (and any organizations outside of the EU offering goods or services to customers in the EU).

GDPR applies to all organizations established inside and outside the EU, hence the opt-in mechanism is automatically applicable here.

Opt-Out under CCPA

Under CCPA consumers have the right to opt out and stop businesses from selling their personal information. All organizations complying with CCPA need to follow clearly defined policies to be able to facilitate consumers with their right to opt-out of the sale of their personal information.

CCPA also requires all businesses to have either a link or a button stating “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” as a mandatory requirement.

To Conclude

There are multiple circumstances where using an opt-in method is more appropriate as compared to using an opt-out method and vice versa. However, it is important to remember that since privacy laws aren’t the same everywhere, it is always a best practice to adhere to the strictest legislation to the extent possible. 

From a business perspective, it is safer approach to employ both opt-in and opt-out options in situations as needed to ensure customers’ privacy needs and fulfillment of the law.

The need is to understand that it is not simply about complying with the law but about respecting your users by providing them more autonomy and control over the privacy of their personal information.

For further help Secuvy offers a Universal Consent Management Platform to streamline Consent Management for businesses.