Long before driving big headlines in 2018, GDPR pushed major brands, publishers and ad agencies to comply with the new EU regulation before the law went into power. But many companies are still far behind – and unless they catch up, they could be on borrowed time.

The substantial fines imposed on companies that do not comply with the law are one reason all firms should make sure they are in compliance, but there’s a lot more to the story. The fact that GDPR inspired so many headlines and caused many companies to go above and beyond the law indicates a new, undeniable trend in online media and society at large: a growing concern about privacy.

Privacy hawks have been around for years, and experts have been warning about the risks and philosophical trappings of not protecting data for a long time. For the most part, users ignored these pleas, blissfully using social media platforms, searching on Google and openly sharing data with data miners, ad retargeters and publishers. But all of that is changing – and it’s changing fast.

Whether or not you agree that data privacy is an important issue or that publishers and advertisers should have less access to individual data, there is a clear movement to demand greater privacy protections. In short, privacy has gone mainstream.

This movement poses a critical danger for companies because if they do not comply with the law and follow the wishes of users, there is a serious concern that users will abandon them. Publishers, brands and advertisers alike face great existential risk, and it’s much bigger than anything in GDPR or future privacy legislation to come from Europe or America.

And make no mistake: Future legislation will be coming. The popularity of privacy concerns almost guarantees it, and we might see politicians run for office on a promise to protect user data in the future.

If you want your customers and audience to think you’re forward-looking, you need to get ahead of future privacy concerns, making it a cornerstone of both your business model and your marketing message to consumers. But how can you operate in this new era of data privacy expectations?

That is the subject Pooja Kapoor, head of GDPR and Data Trust Initiatives at Google, and Vikram Somaya, SVP, Global Data Officer and Ad Platforms at ESPN, will discuss at length at this year’s &THEN. Kapoor and Somaya will lead a discussion titled “Data Privacy in a Post-GDPR World” to dig deep into how the world’s changing perception of data privacy and the impact taking privacy seriously can have on brands and advertisers in the future.

With data privacy developments rapidly changing the online marketing landscape, anyone who works online needs to consider this topic carefully.

This article is brought to you by &THEN, DMA’s annual event. Click here to join the leaders of the marketing community and advance your data and marketing mastery in Las Vegas, October 7-9.