What do we do with our data/their data/your data?

People raise questions about GDPR, thnking about the protection of the tabular data that is converted to housestyle PDFs. Apparently the perception is that our layout service collects this data. This is not the case and has never been. You can rest assured: the system doesn’t collect anything. There are no databases filled or filing systems populated. Data are not stored so thay can’t be re-used, not even for the same purpose. It’s in and out.

This fact alone means that chapterprints.nl is not in the scope of GDPR. If you’d like to inform yourseelf about GDPR, see https://gdpr-info.eu/. Few people have read that thoroughly. In chapter 2 you can read about the main principles of GDPR.

  • The data is processed “lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner”. This is the main principle of GDPR, so no problem here. The data are only used to return them to the user who transmitted them in the first place, designed into a neat PDF-layout. There is no second life for the original tabular data, they will be deleted.
  • Generating collaterals for meetings (an agenda, name tags, table cards, a participants list) is a ‘household activity’ for professional gatherings, which also could be considered to be outside the scope of GDPR.
  • If it’s not ‘household’ but ‘professional’, it’s a service to the participants, helping them to present the very information they want to have shared to the other participants.
  • Let’s look at the meeting itself for a moment: participants are exposing their identities to other participants, including their contact information and professions, even their purposes in life. There’s a lot of personal data going back and forth in such meetings. This has never been a problem because this information is not stored digitally to be re-used. well, the same goes for chapterprints.nl: nothing is collected, filed or re-used.
  • GDPR is all about “Filing Systems” for personal data. This design system puts text strings in a layout on the fly. There is no filing system for data whatsoever. No database is filled, the data are simply not collected.

A pristine record

This system has been used by multinational corporations for more than a decade. In the print era, it revolutionized the localization of artwork: it put 20+ translations in the same English Master design, print-ready in certified PDFs. The system processed sensitive data, such as pre-launch information of brand new globally marketed IT products, including specs and proprietary features that were strictly confidential until launch date.

In that period, the system survived several security audits. There was a security frenzy after sensitive product data were leaked. Someone saved a product sheet in a folder that was shared on eDonkey, a popular sharing platform back in the day. In fact this proved that the ideal system is a system without file juggling. Unfortunately, the most important measures were taken in the very places where they had practically no effect. The real problem was the ignorant or careless user in the office or at home. In a multinational corporate network, 10,000s of user are harder to control than a handful of preferred suppliers.

Currently, 99,9% of the processed data is publicly available on business websites. I should mention an exception, to be fair: some incidental attendees may inadvertently share information that they don’t display on their own websites or data that they don’t want to be shared – although that’s hard to imagine, it cannot be ruled out. They may also mistakenly have given consent. The system can’t help that. Mistakes can happen but even then, the data will not be misused by the system. The data doesn’t change after being processed, the owner doesn’t change, the audience doesn’t change.

  • Again: the transmitted data is not even stored. except for some logs for debugging purposes. This makes it impossible to (mis)use the data for other purposes than generating the PDFs.
  • There will not ever be a ‘bulk’ use of all the transmitted data, simply because that data does not exist! Transmitted data will be deleted after it is processed and is 99,9% public available data.

Having said all of this about Chapterprints.nl, how about the alternatives? How do people create collaterals for network meetings, and how secure are those methods?

Are alternative systems safe?

Alternative methods for creating professional layouts are probably less secure:

  • Popular (“free”) cloud services like Google Sheets, Docs, Office 365, Canva, Keynote and others are used for al kinds of data. Data is even saved, collected and shared(!) there.
  • That data also sits on local disks, laptops and USB-sticks. We all know data leaks that were caused by sloppy use of USB-sticks or forgotten laptops.
    • Please note that business models of some of these big ‘file sharing’ companies may involve evaluating/using/selling data.
    • Many of these IT companies are hosted in the US. Some consider this to be a security risk.
    • It is common practice to share sensitive (inside) information in Dropboxes, Google Drive/Docs/Sheets or Onedrive documents and folders etc. etc. Employees, management or members, all are exchanging data via Whatsapp, Telegram, e-mail, Zoom Chat, Meet Chat, Teams Chat… Nobody knows is all these shared folders are properly managed and secured and not accidentally set public or (unintentionally) shared with third parties? We can only hope that’s not the case.
  • Another, less common layout tool is for example InDesign. This is premium professional desktop software, quite expensive. Many small businesses are using older or cracked versions. (Adobe is aware of this. One way of securing their position as market leader is to keep the proprietary file format as business standard. Overall compatibility is key.) Adobe also offers cloud storage, making data accessible from all connected devices.. One could ponder if that’s as secure and safe as we would hope.
  • Organizations may claim that the collaterals contain “their data” but do they? Please note that we are processing publicly shared business information that (small) business are using for marketing purposes on all kinds of media. Many of them have made the choice to be individual identifiable, so people can reach out. This can’t be blamed on a system.
  • A company that collects public information is not the owner of that information although they do carry responsibility for it. This is were “lawful and transparant” comes in. The whole goal of gatherings and meetings is sharing that information among the participants and trying to connect participants, whether they are poor scientists or commercial entrepeneurs.
  • Returning participants have usually given consent for public display of their name, business name and phone number. They are aware (and wish) that their contact data will generate leads.
  • Incidental visitors formally may have given consent but they usually haven’t read the privacy policy. In any case they can see exactly how their data is treated when they receive the Note Sheet/placemat, a decent name tag etc. The placemat is often emailed to them upfront. This is totally lawful and transparent and the information, used to create the PDF will never be re-used. Instead it will be deleted.
  • Seeing names and contact information on a Presence List in a meeting should not come as a surprise. Badges and Table Cards with Name, Profession and Business Name are not even noteworthy. They’re disposed of after the meeting. Nobody saves them. Please note that each day, hundreds of PDFs are generated (mostly name tags for badges). Tens of thousands of names have gone through the system without any complaint. We can’t prove that because we haven’t kept the data.
  • If the printed materials are a problem: this is not related to the layout system with which they were created.

Let’s be clear and summarize: GDPR is simply not the point.

In case you’re curious about our experience in this field, please read on. We’re happy to provide you with some historical background information.

So, why the reluctance – if any?

Yes – corporate officals are often opposed to using ‘innovative’ tools like chapterprints.nl. We’ve repeatedly experienced this in the 30 years that we have deployed the system. (It started with communication experts who didn’t like electronically typesetted materials.) These officials would love to see a consistent housestyle throughout their franchises but they don’t dare to step into a new era, it’s still an unknown approach to many of them and since print has vanished, not a key issue anymore.

Some organizations are concerned that they are losing control pf data and branding. Of course, the opposite is the case. The success of the system lies in following the corporate guidelines and regulations more strictly than creative individuals would do with their own interpretations.

Chapterprints.nl is an independent initiative by a seasoned marketing professional. It started some 30 years ago (yes, we were one of the first “web-to-print” systems, maybe the first). In the early days, some multinationals did embrace our system, others have tried to mimic it internally -and failed repeatedly.

Other corporates simply missed the boat and never catched up. Later on the problem disappeared as printing decentralized, shifting the security focus to online data management exclusively.

The ones that didn’t join the web-to-print bandwagon probably never thought of such a system, weren’t IT-focused at all or didn’t believe that such a system would be able to generate hi-end artwork for worldwide printing purposes. It must be noted that the quality of this system is indeed extraordinary.

Some other corporates didn’t trust the continuity of a small independent business and they requested big IT firms for quotations. (In fact we were consulted by these firms on several occasions because nobody else had our expertise). Many of these companies have now vanished. Chapterprints.nl is a modest service now (commercial print is decimated), but at least still alive and running. It can’t do everything but it really shines in what it does.

Independent and controllable

The strength of Chapterprints.nl’s is the consistent execution of housestyle guidelines, put in algorithms. We totally support the holiness of a strict housestyle and immaculate execution. In fact, this has been our main expertise, having worked for hi-end agencies and Brand-A corporations like Ricoh, Mitsubishi, Rotary, Canon, Nissan and some more. We worked with the best creative directors and art directors. We are totally brainwashed with strict housestyle mantras.

An example: even when Germany (the most important country in Europe for many products) proposed to change the location of an address on a back cover, we stood up to protect the corporate identity so European Headquarters could hide behind us. Although the actual issue was irrelevant, We know very well that things will go wrong big time when franchises are allowed to figure out a ‘better’ format than HQ. A system like chapterprints can only work in a top-down hierarchy. Some feedback can’t be implemented without consent of the mother organization.

The eye-opener should be that chapterprints.nl does not alter the meeting format or the house style. It doesn’t change anything and it’s not a ‘better’ or competitive format. If follows all guidelines of typography and house style metaculously.

If it does impact the meeting format in any way, be assured that it reinforces and underlines the concept of networking, it expresses it, it gives hands and feet to the basic idea. It emphasizes hospitality, personal interest, professionality, it shows well-organized preparedness by presenting “house stylized” materials, affirming corporate presence.

Practically, it helps event organizers or visitor hosts in welcoming the visitors and routing them through the introduction. It supports the evaluation afterwards so the hosts can do their job in less time and without forgetting the main questions to be asked. It helps the president or director with naming guests correctly. It facilitates making a table arrangement – all PERFECTLY not only compliant but even strengthening hospitality and professionality of any networking event or congress.

Besides, it gives a unified corporate look&feel to all participating franchises, chapters, stores, restaurants. Professionally lead organizations put great value in this fact alone.

People who say “Yes it sure looks nice, but privacy…” are missing the functional power of these tools. Anyone with a communication heart can see that this is not about just “looking nice”. It’s about style consistency, communication coherence, housestyle, applying branding techniques on the work floor. It affects the core of what a brand should be, not only in budget burning ad campaigns, tv-commercials, on billboards and in good old print but everywhere, especially in the context of interacting people.

Chapterprints.nl has always been open to corporates who feel the need to support their franchisees. Lately, multinationals have tended to team up wih other multinationals. Chapterprints.nl prefers professional independency.

Other corporates share templates for all kinds of applications and let the users freewheel with these files. They leave it up to their franchise holders how they handle and create the materials as advised in the guidelines. Franchise holders are put to work in Powerpoint, Excel, Keynote, Google Docs, Canva or other online services, like chapterprints.nl. Can you guess which method will render the highest quality output, when they try to squeeze their content in?

More practically speaking: not every group or community has a Graphic Designer who’s eager to do this repetitive work, copy/paste and copyfit all these items, week after week in a layout template. Creating all the personalized items takes at least half an hour and it won’t be as top notch. Not all items will be personalized because that would simply take even more time. Now, what would be a decent fee for that professional weekly job? Spoiler: Working with chapterprints.nl costs less than € 5,90 per week. It personalizes all items faultlessly in a few mouse clicks and anyone can do it. Turnaround time is minutes, not hours, so on-demand production is not an issue.

Then print, cut & ready.

Chapterprints.nl can be operated by anyone with Excel or Google Sheets.
The price per networking group is € 280,- per year.
Corporate application and new template creation is negotiable.
Contact us for a demo.