Understanding Data Privacy Compliance Across Multinational Teams in Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Understanding Data Privacy Compliance Across Multinational Teams in Salesforce Marketing Cloud

More than 70% of nations have enacted data protection and privacy laws in the last decade, as shown by the 241 legislations listed on the United Nations Trade and Industry website. The pressing question arises: How do multinational teams navigate the complexities of data privacy compliance, especially when adopting Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC), as it ingests their customers’ data to generate insights and facilitate communication across diverse channels?

Those versed in CRM administration, as well as creative and technical marketing, often attest to undergoing data privacy training preemptively, aligning with regional legislation. Such training is especially important for individuals with system access privileges and those handling the data directly. According to Salesforce’s website, the company diligently monitors the evolving global privacy landscape, adjusting its privacy program to remain abreast of changes.

This article delves into the influential data privacy legislative and regulatory frameworks impacting multinational teams, the challenges multinational organizations encounter, and how streamlining collaboration can lead to better compliance. It further sheds light on compliance best practices that can be executed using SFMC, encompassing useful system and automation functionality that culminate in effective and efficient communication with subscribers. 

Legal and Regulatory Frameworks Impacting Multinational Teams

Diverse regulations worldwide emphasize distinct facets of data privacy, focusing on specific rules within each jurisdiction. The landscape of data privacy laws is continually evolving, affecting multinational teams as they navigate compliance across these jurisdictions. This dynamic environment traces back to the initiation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018, serving as a catalyst for the establishment of region-specific data protection laws globally.

The GDPR’s foundational principles are:

  • lawfulness, fairness, transparency,
  • purpose limitations
  • data minimization
  • accuracy
  • storage limitation
  • integrity and confidentiality
  • accountability

These principles left their mark on the various laws that followed, prompting multinational teams to devise compliance strategies that align emerging laws with the principles of the GDPR. As illustrative instances, consider subsequent jurisdictional laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), and the General Data Protection Law (LGPD).

The CCPA mandates businesses disclose data sharing practices, providing residents with rights to access, delete, correct, and opt-out of data sharing.

PIPEDA, applicable in Canada, safeguards personal information in the private sector, governing its collection, use, and disclosure for commercial activities. 

LGPD in Brazil safeguards the privacy of personal data collected or processed within the country.

Consider a scenario where all the previously mentioned laws apply to a multinational team. To navigate this intricate framework effectively, the team must initially grasp the fundamental principles of the GDPR as a robust foundation. To expand on this, they need to familiarize themselves with the specific data privacy laws governing their operational regions and sectors. A deep understanding of personal data regulations in both their home jurisdiction and others is imperative.

Crucially, the team’s digital marketing solutions must align with legislative requirements. By identifying commonalities and nesting pertinent laws, multinational teams can ensure comprehensive compliance. This not only involves adhering to the similar requirements they find, but also addressing diverse and stringent regulations that are specific to jurisdictions, thereby mitigating the risk of costly penalties.

Challenges and Considerations of Data Privacy Compliance in Multinational Teams

Multinational teams contend with significant external and internal pressures concerning data compliance, impacting various business drivers such as cost, personnel, processes, technology, quality, and risk scope.

Externally, escalating pressure results from the emergence of diverse global legal requirements, which have been characterized as impeding progress in life and business advancements in certain analyses. 

Internally, organizations must navigate this evolving regulatory landscape, ensuring that their data compliance policies align with changing regulations. Consequently, internal dynamics necessitate continuous updates to data governance structures, intensifying the impact on organizational policies and processes.

This confluence of external and internal forces presents growing challenges for multinational teams in adhering to data compliance, resulting in a surge in associated costs. Common initiatives that contribute to this cost escalation include the following.

  • Establishing in-country operations
  • Hiring local expertise
  • Localizing infrastructure
  • Restructuring data processing methods

External forces, such as the rising demand for personalization from customers, add another layer of complexity. To stay competitive, organizations must invest in processes, personnel, and technology to meet evolving customer expectations. This requires navigating the delicate balance between adhering to data regulations that vary across regions and meeting dynamic customer demands.

Internally, aligning data privacy compliance policies with multinational contexts introduces further complexity. More resources are spent on tailoring training programs for diverse cultural contexts and to overcome language barriers. This has become essential to address jurisdictional requirements that speak to lawfulness, fairness, and transparency.

The industry shift to cloud solutions exposes data to cybersecurity risks, necessitating a steadfast commitment to data integrity and confidentiality. Multinational teams must implement robust data security measures to comply with diverse breach notification requirements. Given the variation in these requirements across jurisdictions, teams must prepare to adhere to different reporting timelines and specifications in the event of a data breach.

Moreover, establishing a compliance team in multinational settings poses its own set of challenges. This endeavor is not only costly, but also requires increased accountability, leadership support, alignment with the business’ key performance indicators (KPIs) and establishing appropriate reporting structures. This is further discussed in the below section.

Streamlining Communication and Collaboration Across Business Units

The establishment of an effective team for data compliance necessitates not only the identification of suitable personnel but also the assurance that these individuals assume accountability and responsibility for the pertinent compliance processes and data. The imperative here lies in maintaining an open communication loop addressing concerns related to data compliance, accuracy, and accountability. In instances where accountability ownership cannot be discerned, a prudent course of action would be to eliminate the associated data and its interconnected elements.

There are various Data Governance Framework suggestions, but in the case of a multinational organization a Centralized Enterprise Data Quality and Governance Team, in collaboration with dispersed teams, is often most effective. The team may comprise of Data Governance Councils and appointed Data Stewards who oversee critical data domains. This includes, for example, designating a Data Steward for Marketing Operations and another for Customer Success and so forth. The role of these stewards is to enforce compliance rules, monitor data quality, and ensure overall data integrity.

In the context of multinational operations, it is sensible to designate regional Data Stewards or Business Unit Data Stewards reporting to the Centralized Enterprise Data Quality and Governance Team. Their mandate would involve overseeing processes, ensuring accountability, monitoring data quality, and upholding security rules. This structure will empower individual business units to articulate the purpose of their data, take responsibility for its accuracy, manage access permissions, and ensure data consistency.

The Centralized Data Quality and Governance Team assumes a pivotal role not merely in appearance but in substance, requiring the formalization of programs designed to address financial losses, mitigate data privacy compliance risks, and navigate the continual evolution of data compliance standards. These programs may be extended to regional implementation where required and administered through collaboration with the designated Data Stewards.

These programs are crucial for organization-wide compliance and to secure the support and engagement of organizational leadership, especially when Data KPIs align with overarching Business KPIs. Alignment will elevate the significance of data governance beyond mere regulatory adherence to a strategic imperative integral to the organization’s mission.

Best Practices for Ensuring Data Compliance in Salesforce Marketing Cloud

As highlighted earlier, the impact of data compliance on revenue and costs requires thorough internal data governance practices and policies. It is imperative to also ensure alignment across your SFMC instance. Here are some recommended best practices within SFMC, which is not an exhaustive list.

Business Unit Partitioning

In a multinational company, distinct business units may operate under the same enterprise account in SFMC. Your governance framework may dictate that these units should not access each other’s data. Configure this in SFMC by navigating to Setup/Business Units. For data sharing between business units, consider using shared data extensions and establish permissions using SFMC Data-Extension policies.

Field-Level Encryption

To enhance compliance with data privacy policies or regulatory requirements, activate field-level encryption, particularly for email addresses in SFMC. This added protection sets selective encryption for desired fields of a data extension before it is sent to Marketing Cloud. This ensures sensitive data remains private from Salesforce and any team members without proper clearance.

Administrator Roles and Permissions

Align your SFMC Administrator Role with your Data Governance Framework on access controls and permissions. Utilize SFMC standard roles like Marketing Cloud Administrator, Marketing Cloud Viewer, etc., or customize roles to fit your organizational structure.

Send Classification Setup

Leverage your governance framework to guide the setup of Send Classifications (promotional/commercial or transactional emails) in SFMC. This includes configuring sender profiles (email addresses used for sending) and delivery profiles (standardized headers and footers) to ensure compliance with regulations such as CAN-SPAM.

Content Management and Tagging

Implement tagging in SFMC to manage and identify content subject to specific regulations and policies. This facilitates easy tracking, identification, and management of created content, thereby customer communications remain compliant.

Data Retention Policies

Refer to your Data Governance Framework to determine the duration for which data should be retained. Configure and edit data retention policies within SFMC Data Extensions accordingly.

Contact Data Deletion Process

Utilize the available manual process in SFMC for deleting all related data to a contact. This can be done through the Contact Builder in the All Contacts tab and all data will be deleted related to this contact. Consider automating this process, through development, to streamline data removal.

Regular Compliance Audits and Training

Conduct regular data privacy compliance audits and assessments. Ensure that all staff with data access undergo training to be well-versed in the organization’s data governance policies and relevant jurisdictional requirements. This proactive approach minimizes the risk of non-compliance.

By adhering to best practices and continuously assessing and educating your staff, your organization can effectively navigate the complexities of data compliance within SFMC, thereby mitigating potential financial impacts.

Data Compliance Automation in Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Aligned with data privacy and compliance best practices, SFMC offers automated functions to facilitate adherence to compliance standards. SFMC recommends the deployment of monitoring tools, such as Google Postmaster Tools and SNDS with Microsoft, to oversee IP and Domain reputation, detecting potential issues like compromised servers, malware, viruses, and botnets.

SFMC also equips users with tools and functionalities which, if implemented diligently and according to jurisdictional rules, can ensure compliance. Here are some automation features that can be set up within SFMC:

Automate Subscriber Consent Management

  • Customize your processes in Automation Studio and Journey Builder to align with your subscriber consent management strategy. This ensures that opt-out requests are promptly honored, maintaining compliance with data protection regulations.
  • Utilize publication lists to automate the unsubscribe process, promptly honoring requests and reinstating subscriptions only upon explicit consent, triggered by subscriber actions in emails or profile centers.
  • Configure DoNotTrack to prevent the recording or storage of unauthorized behavioral data. This preference can be made available in a customer profile center, where customers can also manage their subscriptions.

Automate Contact Deletion

Address right-to-be-forgotten regulations by automating contact data deletion in SFMC. This may involve further development efforts to ensure data privacy compliance. Alternatively, contacts can be added to do-not-send contact lists, acting as an auto-suppression list to prevent further sends to unsubscribed or problematic contacts.

Automated Restrictions on Data Processing

Leverage the Marketing Cloud REST API to automate restrictions on data processing for specific contacts. This helps marketers adhere to subscribers’ privacy preferences when managing their data.

Unsubscribing Nonactive Recipients

Although SFMC doesn’t automatically unsubscribe nonactive recipients, it does recognize bounced emails, preventing further communication in the case of hard bounces (user unknown or domain errors).

Automate Audience Segmentation

Use filter activities and queries in SFMC to automate the segmentation of audiences. This ensures that campaigns are directed to targeted audiences based on their preferences and consent, enhancing relevance.

Automate segmentation of audiences for relevant content sends in SFMC with filter activities and queries. This will create targeted audiences for campaigns and ensure that your marketing messages are directed only to individuals who will find the information relevant and have given their consent.

Speaking of automating segmentation, DESelect removes the need for code when creating audiences, empowering all marketers to create the audiences they need. Learn how even brands in highly regulated industries, like financial services company Alm. Brand, have cut the time it takes to segment in half while remaining in compliance with privacy regulations.

SFMC can integrate with other compliance tools and services. This can include tools for data anonymization, data masking, and other solutions that help in maintaining compliance with regulations.


In summary, effectively maneuvering through the intricate landscape of data privacy compliance across multinational teams, utilizing SFMC, demands a meticulous and committed approach. This involves assigning explicit roles and responsibilities for continuous accountability and responsibility. 

With over 70% of nations implementing data protection laws in the past decade, addressing compliance intricacies is paramount, affecting organizational data governance policies and procedures.

Learn how DESelect’s rigorous data security and encryption practices help your organization remain compliant with major regulations – while optimizing your team’s marketing operations.

Suzaan Groves Cloud-Vision

Suzaan Groves

Suzaan is a Project Director at Cloud-Vision, where she specializes in managing projects related to Salesforce Marketing Cloud implementations and development.  She has been part of project implementations in various sectors including automotive, retail, government and financial services.  Suzaan is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), and she holds an MBA from the University of Stellenbosch.

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