Guide to GDPR Compliance
This documentation page is a general guide to help you understand how to get Freeform forms to be compliant with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). GDPR compliance goes beyond forms (e.g. notification of data breaches, etc), so please be sure to review this official guide to GDPR.
In no way does this resource guarantee compliance or serve as legal advice. You may need to seek legal counsel to ensure your website fully complies with GDPR.
- Who does GDPR impact?
- What does it mean for me?
- Definition of Stored Data
- Ask for Consent
- Withdrawal of Consent
- Further Options
Who does GDPR impact?
GDPR affects every company that uses personal data from EU citizens. If you’re collecting data from users in the EU, you need to comply with GDPR regardless of where you’re based.
What does it mean for me?
Our understanding of GDPR compliance within the context of Freeform, is that you need explicit consent from the person filling out the form to agree to you having their data, as well as allowing the user to request access to the information you have stored on them, and the ability to request to have that data removed promptly. We often receive requests from customers wondering if there's a way to have Freeform not store the data but still send an email notification to the admin(s). This is not sufficient, as email notifications containing personal information about customers is still you or your organization storing their sensitive data somewhere on a server, etc.
It's also worth noting that not all types of forms require consent. If you're conducting an anonymous survey, quiz or poll, that does not collect any personally identifying information, you likely shouldn't need to worry about GDPR. Please be sure to check out the Further Options section of this document for additional options available to you should you be needing to deal with all sorts of odd interpretations from anxious clients.
That said, updating your forms to be compliant shouldn't be too much work. Just follow this guide below:
Definition of Stored Data
We define stored data as any data that is collected from a Freeform form and stored on your website, email notifications and API integrations such as CRM and Email Marketing services. It's important to understand that asking for consent essentially means you require the user to consent to any/all of the above or nothing at all (can't submit the form).
Ask for Consent
Essentially, the easiest blanket approach you can take will be adding a checkbox to your form and setting it to be required to be compliant with GDPR. While almost cut and dry, please read below for the important specifics about doing this.
In your form, simply create an additional field of the Checkbox fieldtype, and set it to be required. It's important however, that the following is adhered to:
- The checkbox needs to be clearly labelled and easy to understand. A good example would be something like:
I consent to Company Name collecting and storing my data from this form.
- The consent needs to be separate and cannot be bundled with other consent, terms and conditions, notices, etc.
- The checkbox must be a positive opt-in, and cannot be pre-checked by default.
- Set the checkbox to be required so that the form cannot submit without consent being given.
If you'd like to add additional disclaimer information above or below the checkbox, you can do this by using the HTML Block special fieldtype available inside the form builder.
Proof of Consent
While we can probably all agree this part might be somewhat meaningless since the data could be easily manipulated, it's required that you have the ability to "prove" that the user consented to the data being stored. The checkbox field you created will store a
y value (or whatever you set for it) in the database, so you're covered here. No other action is necessary.
Withdrawal of Consent
You must make it easy for users to withdrawal consent (and have you remove all of their data). You must also tell them how they can do this. To cover all angles here, you might consider some or all of the following:
- Include instructions and/or Consent Withdrawal form on the success page after they've submitted your form.
- Include an option/instructions to remove consent in any email notifications generated.
- Include an option/instructions to remove consent in any future promotional marketing email communications.
The withdrawal of consent does not need to be automated (but that might help if your sites deals with a high volume of users). To setup a form to handle this, it's required that the process:
- Only requires the user submit their email address.
- Does not require the user to log into your site.
- Does not require the user to visit more than 1 page to submit their request (needs to be very simple and fast).
A form is not required however. You could also include instructions for the user to send an email to you asking to have their data removed, etc.
Removing a User's Data
Removing a user's data is simple. If you're requested to remove data about a user, simply delete the Freeform submission(s) associated with them from the Freeform control panel.
- You have 1 month to comply with removal of the user's data.
So in review here's a summary of the steps required:
- Create an additional field of the Checkbox fieldtype, and set it to be required. Leave it unchecked by default and label it something like I consent to Company Name collecting and storing my data from this form.
- Place instructions in email notifications or form success pages explaining how a customer can go about having their data removed from your site.
- When requested to remove a user's data, be sure to remove all associated submission(s) within 30 days or less.
Again, be sure to review this official guide to GDPR.
There are some other measures you can take for your site in regards to GDPR compliance. Based on our interpretation of the law, none of these should be necessary, but when navigating all sorts of requests from anxious clients, they are available nonetheless:
- Disable IP address collection
- User-based data storage checkbox
- Automatically purge submission data
- Self-serve submission deletion
Disable IP address collection
IP addresses are collected by default for the purpose of protection against spammers and other possible future features such as limiting submissions to 1 per user, etc. You can disable the collection of IP addresses of submitters per form by unchecking the Collect IP Addresses setting inside the Form Settings area of the form builder.
- It's worth noting that while IP addresses are considered personally identifying information, you are likely collecting all sorts of other personally identifying information anyway, so omitting IP addresses doesn't exactly solve anything unless you're running an anonymous survey or poll, in which disabling this would allow you to avoid GDPR consent troubles.
User-based data storage checkbox
You can add a checkbox to your forms that allows your site users to decide whether or not the submission data should be stored on your site.
- To enable it, see the Opt-In Data Storage Checkbox setting inside the Form Settings areas of the form builder. In the select dropdown, select a Checkbox fieldtype you want to be the designated opt-in field, or choose Disabled to not use this feature.
- This setting will still send off API data and email notifications.
- It's important to understand that limiting data to be stored on your site, but still elsewhere such as CRM services and emails would still need to be in compliance with GDPR regulations.
Automatically purge submission data
If you wish to have your Freeform submissions data purged from your site automatically after a certain number of days, you can do this using the Automatically Purge Submission Data setting under General Settings. GDPR regulations require that you comply with a persons request to remove their data within 30 days, so theoretically if you set this setting to 30 days or less, you would automatically be complying without needing to specifically handle their request (at least in regards to the data you have on them inside Freeform).
- The Days After Submission Date to Purge setting allows you to select the number of days after submissions have been submitted for Freeform to begin automatically purging.
- This process will only run every hour, and only when Freeform is accessed on the front end in templates or in the control panel.
Enabling this and saving this settings page will result in purging beginning.
Self-serve submission deletion
Freeform submissions include a unique "secure" token that is available for a variety of purposes. Specifically, you could include the token inside an email notification to the submitter (or on the success page after submitting) to construct a link that allows them to remove their submission in a single click. See Deleting Submissions By Token documentation for more information.