Event management in the new age of privacy and security

New privacy regulations like GDPR have made everyone more aware of the personal data they share, and their right to know and manage the personal details companies hold on them. For event managers organising high-end corporate events for VIP customers, the new age of privacy is changing everything, explains Celadin’s Simon Walker.

Balancing good event management with respecting both laws and culture around privacy and security is a growing challenge for event organisers we’re working with today.

Privacy is one of the defining issues of this digital age. Initiatives like GDPR are spearheading worldwide changes that present new challenges, but also new opportunities, for the events industry.


The technologies that we use in our event management software deliver an unprecedented amount of data to the companies we help organise events for, but in the new age privacy, where customers are quickly coming to understand the real value of their own personal data, being able to demonstrate good data governance has become a strong differentiator for events organisers.

When conference attendees agree to provide personal details these days they usually want to know three things: 1. Why is the data being collected? 2. What will it be used for? and 3. What happens to the data when the event is over?

Trust comes when delegates feel their privacy is respected

Integrating NFC (near field communication) technology such as Beacons – which pinpoints the location of individuals – provides event organisers with legitimately useful information, such as where they have been and when.

Attending conferences – and specific sessions such as keynote speeches – can be a condition of being at the whole event and, in some instances, is also a key test of whether the cost of the conference is eligible for tax purposes.

So, proving you were where you were meant to be at the right time is important for everyone. And if attendees didn’t attend a particular speech or breakout session then they should not be surprised to receive a text or email soon after the event from their line manager or conference organiser asking about the absence.

However, it is probably less important for the event organisers to know that you were still knocking out moves on the dancefloor or knocking back tequilas at the bar at two in the morning. That is …well… between you and your liver.

Keeping up to date with evolving privacy regulations

All event managers strive to comply with data privacy laws and inform delegates of their privacy rights when they download the app and sign up for the event.

Staying up to date with different privacy legislative provisions in different territories is a must for event organisers, either through in-house IT governance experts or external advisers. And part of that includes telling delegates their privacy rights including all important opt-outs.

Given all the publicity over recent months on online privacy issues – a quick search will reveal dozens of articles on the subject – it is not surprising that awareness among the majority of digital users is on the rise.

A recent US survey showed 78% were aware of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytics survey and that is proving to be a major turning point in the way consumers feel about their data privacy.


However, we at Celadin have known about the importance of privacy for some time. The people who attend the conferences that we help to stage have always been sophisticated users. That means many have always chosen to keep privacy at the highest available settings, turning down the opportunity to share data with other colleagues at the event.

That is absolutely fine. But it has always been interesting to see how different cultures have had different attitudes to the opt-in/opt-out option. Looking back a decade or more, it is fair to say that delegates from central Europe – such as Germany and Austria – were asking questions whereas delegates from the US and the UK used seemed to be more relaxed.

For instance, quite often the more concerned/curious would ask us what was stored on the chip on their delegate badge: the answer which we were happy to give was ‘nothing’.

And all that data which was collected during the event? It was never ours, it was always the clients, so we never kept any of it. Anything we had for the duration of the event was always stored securely. And afterwards our clients, of course, would manage all the event data in line with their normal data governance protocols.

Privacy questions are here to stay. With the advent of integration and sharing of images into digital technology, the need to respect privacy will constantly pose fresh questions. But they are not insurmountable; answers lie in understanding law, technology, best practice and – most importantly of all – the objectives for the event.

If you want to discuss any aspect of privacy please contact us