Can You Cold Email Under GDPR: The Right Way of Doing It

Have you ever found yourself pondering the possibility of reaching out to potential clients or collaborators through cold emails? You know, those unsolicited messages that can either open doors or end up in the dreaded spam folder?

Well, my friend, you’re not alone in this curiosity. In today’s interconnected world, cold emailing has become a topic of great interest, particularly in light of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

So, whether you’re a curious individual, an entrepreneur looking to grow your business, or someone simply seeking to stay informed, this exposé is for you. Ready to embark on this adventure? Let’s dive in!


Unraveling the Mystery of GDPR

Established by the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a legislation designed to empower individuals in relation to their personal data.

It aims at protecting personal data, enabling citizens to have control over their information, and streamlining privacy laws across Europe.

But what constitutes personal data? In the context of GDPR, personal data refers to any information relating to an identifiable person who can be directly or indirectly identified through this information.

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This could be anything from a name, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer’s IP address.

For businesses, this means ensuring robust data access controls, systems access controls, and physical access controls that secure all the data they handle. Data segregation becomes vital here to prevent unauthorized access or potential data breaches.

It’s crucial to realize that GDPR is not only about protecting personal data but also about processing personal data responsibly. This includes every step involved in the data journey — from data collection and storing data to further data processing.

The Power of Cold Emailing

Cold emailing is a powerful tool in the digital marketing arsenal, especially for lead generation. It involves reaching out to prospects who have had no prior contact or relationship with your business. The primary aim is to spark an interest, initiate a conversation, and hopefully, convert these prospects into customers.

When it comes to cold email campaigns, the quality of your CRM database is essential. Accurate and correct contact details of active contacts increase the effectiveness of your campaign. As a best practice, ensure you have a system in place to maintain up-to-date contact records.

GDPR and Cold Emailing: The Intersection

Yes, you can cold email under GDPR! However, your approach must be GDPR compliant. This is where it gets tricky.

A major part of processing personal data under GDPR involves having a lawful basis. When cold emailing, businesses typically rely on two lawful bases: consent and legitimate interest.

Consent is explicit approval from the data subject (the person whose personal data you’re collecting).

It’s simple: you can process data if you have clear, affirmative consent from the data subject. The challenge is, it’s not always feasible to obtain consent before sending a cold email.

This is where legitimate interest comes into play. The term refers to a valid reason to process personal data without obtaining explicit consent.

It could be a commercial interest, legal obligation, or public interest. In the context of cold emailing, you could argue that your small or medium business has a legitimate interest in marketing its products or services.

However, it’s important to conduct a Legitimate Interest Assessment (LIA) to ascertain that your interest prospect data, doesn’t override the data subject’s rights and interests. It’s also important to explain the legal interest to the data subject in your cold email.

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Furthermore, GDPR also requires transparency in your intentions of data processing. This can be achieved through a statement informing the data subject about your intentions and their rights.

As we navigate the complexity of GDPR and cold emailing, why not make your journey easier? Sign up for Mailarrow, our cold email outreach software. Our tools are designed to help you stay compliant while leveraging the power of cold emails effectively.

Crafting GDPR Compliant Cold Emails

While sending cold emails under GDPR, it’s essential to ensure that your cold email is GDPR compliant. So, how can you craft GDPR compliant cold emails?

Legitimate Interest:

As previously discussed, having a legitimate interest can be a lawful basis for sending cold emails. A legitimate interest could be as simple as a commercial interest in marketing your products or services.

However, remember that this legitimate interest should not outweigh the rights and freedoms of the data subject. To justify your cold email under legitimate interest, you must conduct a Legitimate Interest Assessment (LIA). It is recommended to document this process and conclusion for accountability.


GDPR mandates transparency in processing personal data. In your cold email, you should clearly state why you are contacting the person (your legitimate interest) and how you obtained their email address. It’s also recommended to provide a link to your privacy policy.

Opt-out Option:

GDPR stipulates that the data subject has the right to object to data processing at any time. As such, each of your cold emails should include an unsubscribe link, providing an easy way for recipients to require opt in consent or out if they choose to. An efficient opt out strategy not only helps ensure compliance but also enhances the trust and relationship with the potential customer.

Limited Data Processing:

Data minimization is a key principle of GDPR. It means you should only collect and process data that is necessary for your intended purpose. This principle applies to cold emailing too. Only use the necessary data for your cold email campaign and avoid processing sensitive data unless absolutely required and lawful.

Protecting Personal Data: A Matter of Trust and Compliance

Personal data protection is at the core of GDPR. When conducting cold email campaigns, it’s essential to ensure robust data security to prevent data breaches. This includes implementing stringent data access controls and system access controls. For instance, only authorized personnel such as a data protection officer or a data administrator should have access to the personal data used in your campaign.

You also need to focus on data backups, which are crucial for securing personal data. Regular backups can help restore data in case of accidental deletion or data loss.

Creating a GDPR Compliant Cold Email Campaign: A Strategic Approach

A GDPR compliant cold email marketing campaign is not just about the cold email itself but also about the strategy behind it. It includes the collection, processing, and storage of personal data. GDPR compliance should be integrated into every step of your email marketing campaign.

One of the key aspects of GDPR is data portability, which gives all data owners and subjects the right to receive their personal data that a data controller holds and to transmit those data to another controller. As a business engaging in cold email campaigns, you need to have mechanisms in place to provide data portability.

As we proceed with the next section, remember that staying GDPR compliant while cold emailing is not an insurmountable task. With the right knowledge and tools, you can effectively navigate this landscape. Trust Mailarrow, our cold email outreach software, to simplify your journey. We’re here to help you stay GDPR compliant while maximizing the potential of your cold email campaigns.

Mastering The Art of Cold Emailing While Respecting Data Rights

Explicit Consent:

While it’s true that you can leverage legitimate interest as a legal basis for cold emailing, obtaining explicit consent is the safest route to GDPR compliance. This means that the data subject has willingly agreed to receive marketing messages from you. However, remember that cold emailing by definition is reaching out to prospects who haven’t interacted with your business before, making obtaining consent before sending a cold email challenging.

Data Accuracy:

GDPR necessitates keeping the processed data accurate and up to date. Businesses should take steps to confirm that the personal data used in their cold email campaigns are correct. Any inaccurate data identified should be rectified or the data processed and erased immediately.

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CRM Database Management:

Your CRM database is the backbone of your cold email campaigns. It’s crucial to ensure that your CRM database is well-maintained and GDPR compliant. This includes validating the accuracy of contact details and regularly updating the database.

Ethical Digital Marketing: A Win-Win for Both Parties

In the era of digital marketing, ethical practices matter more than ever. Cold emailing, when done right, can be an ethical and effective strategy. However, resorting to unethical digital marketing practices can harm your reputation and result in non-compliance with regulations like GDPR.

To ensure ethical cold emailing, follow these principles:


Be clear about who you are, why you’re contacting the prospect, and how you got their details. Make sure to include an unsubscribe link in every email. This not only ensures GDPR compliance but also builds trust with the recipient.


Always aim to provide value to the recipient. This could be a piece of valuable content, an exclusive offer, or useful information. A well-crafted cold email that provides value can turn a cold lead into a potential customer.


Respect the recipient’s time and inbox. Avoid sending too many follow up emails or marketing messages that may come off as spammy. Remember, the goal is to build a relationship, not to annoy the prospect.

Role of Data Protection Officer and Data Administrator in GDPR Compliance

In the realm of GDPR, the roles of a Data Protection Officer (DPO) and a Data Administrator are crucial. A DPO is responsible for overseeing data protection strategy and implementation to ensure compliance with GDPR requirements. They serve as a point of contact between the company and any Supervisory Authorities (SAs) that oversee activities related to data.

On the other hand, a Data Administrator plays a key role in managing and securing the most processed personal data. They are responsible for defining and implementing data access controls, system access controls, and physical access controls to secure personal data.

Understanding the role of a DPO and Data Administrator is critical for small or medium businesses looking to leverage cold emailing while adhering to GDPR guidelines.

As we navigate through the complexities of GDPR compliant cold emailing, remember that you’re not alone. Mailarrow, our cold email outreach software, is here to support you every step of the way. Our tools are designed to ensure GDPR compliance while making cold emailing a breeze. Sign up today to experience it for yourself.

The Relationship between GDPR and Personal Data

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) gives EU citizens more control over their personal data. It dictates how businesses can collect, process, and store personal data. Whether you’re processing personal data for cold emailing or other business operations, you need to be GDPR compliant.

Personal Data under GDPR:

Personal data refers to any information that can be used to directly or indirectly identify a person. This includes name, email address, IP address, etc. GDPR mandates businesses to protect personal data, enforce data security measures, and respect the rights of data subjects.

Processing Personal Data:

When sending cold emails, you are processing personal data. This may involve collecting email addresses, storing them in your CRM database, and using them for your email campaigns. GDPR requires businesses to be transparent about how they process data and for what purpose.

Balancing Cold Emailing with GDPR Compliance

Data Segregation and GDPR:

Data segregation is an essential practice for GDPR compliance. This means separating the personal data you collect based on its purpose. For instance, personal data collected and used for cold emailing should be segregated from other data in your organization. This practice not only ensures data security but also facilitates compliance with the GDPR principle of data minimization.

The Legal Obligation:

There are circumstances where processing personal data becomes a legal obligation. For instance, after sending a cold email, if the recipient requests for their data to be erased, the business has a legal obligation to erase the data immediately. Businesses must be prepared to handle such requests promptly to stay GDPR compliant.

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GDPR Compliance: Not a Destination, But a Continuous Journey

As the landscape of data protection evolves, it’s crucial for businesses to continually monitor and update their GDPR compliance strategy. This involves reviewing your data collection and processing practices, keeping abreast of updates in GDPR regulations, and regularly training your team on GDPR compliance.

Remember, a GDPR violation can result in hefty fines and damage to your brand’s reputation. Ensuring GDPR compliance is not just a legal requirement but a commitment to protecting your customer’s data and maintaining their trust.

Whether you’re a small business or an enterprise, GDPR compliance can be complex and challenging. But you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Mailarrow, our cold email outreach software, is equipped with features designed to help you ensure GDPR compliance while effectively managing your cold email campaigns. Sign up today and let Mailarrow help you succeed with cold emailing under GDPR.

Understanding the Mechanisms of Processing Data

GDPR makes it a point to stress on responsible data handling. This calls for businesses to be mindful of how they process personal data while sending out cold emails.

Collecting Data:

Data collection is the first step in any cold emailing process. Here, the principle of data minimization comes into play. According to GDPR, you should only collect data that is necessary for your cold emailing.

Storing Data:

Once collected, personal data should be securely stored. GDPR mandates businesses to have proper data security measures in place for storing personal data. This includes both electronic and physical access controls.

Processing Data:

Processing data involves any operation performed on personal data such as organization, adaptation, or alteration further information. Businesses must ensure that data processing for cold emailing is GDPR compliant.

Handling Sensitive Data

GDPR categorizes certain types of data as sensitive, such as racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious beliefs, etc. Businesses must take extra care while processing sensitive data as GDPR has stricter rules around it.

Processing Data of Past Clients

When it comes to past clients, the rules of processing personal data slightly differ. If you are planning to include past clients in your cold email campaigns, you need to ensure that the processing of their personal data complies with GDPR.

The Importance of a Data Protection Specialist

A data protection specialist can help businesses navigate the complexities of GDPR and ensure compliance in all aspects of their data processing. They can guide on best practices for data security, help in setting up data access controls, and ensure personal data protection.

Active Contacts and GDPR

An active contact is someone who has recently engaged with your email campaigns. When sending cold emails, it’s essential to separate your active contacts from new prospects to ensure appropriate GDPR measures are followed for each group.

Navigating the dynamics of processing data for cold emails under GDPR can be challenging. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it alone. Mailarrow, our cold email outreach software, has been designed to make cold emailing easy and GDPR compliant. Sign up today to streamline your cold emailing efforts.

Vital Aspects of GDPR Compliant Cold Email Campaigns

To be GDPR compliant, cold email campaigns must meet several criteria.

Unsubscribe Link:

Including an unsubscribe link in all your emails is not just a best practice, but a requirement under GDPR. This allows recipients to opt-out of your emails at any point, thus respecting their personal data rights.

Statement Informing About Data Usage:

When you collect personal data for your cold email campaign, GDPR mandates you to provide a statement informing the data subject of their rights and how you intend to use their data.

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Protecting Vital Interests:

In certain circumstances, you can process personal data if it’s necessary to protect the vital interests of the data subject or another individual. This, however, is rarely applicable in the context of cold emailing.

Balancing Legitimate Interest with Personal Data Protection

Legitimate interest can be a lawful basis for processing personal data under GDPR. However, businesses must balance this interest with the rights and interests of the data subject. When relying on legitimate interest, businesses must conduct a Legitimate Interests Assessment (LIA) by data processor and keep a record of it.

Cold Email Campaigns for Lead Generation

Cold email campaigns can be a powerful tool for lead generation if used correctly and responsibly. Businesses must ensure that their lead generation activities, including cold emailing, are in line with GDPR compliance.

GDPR Compliance for Different Role Players

GDPR compliance is not just the responsibility of the data protection officer or the data administrator. It’s a collective effort. The account manager, marketing team, data processors, and even the data owner need to understand and adhere to GDPR requirements.

Staying GDPR Compliant

GDPR compliance is not a one-time effort, but a continuous process. Businesses must regularly audit their data processing activities, update their privacy policies as needed, and ensure compliance on an ongoing basis.

Cold emailing under GDPR can seem daunting, but with the right understanding and tools, it can be a seamless and efficient process. Mailarrow, our cold email outreach software, helps you send GDPR compliant cold emails with ease. Sign up today to ensure your cold emailing efforts are GDPR compliant.


The Power of Ethical Digital Marketing Practices

GDPR compliance brings with it an era of ethical digital marketing practices. By following GDPR rules, businesses respect the rights of individuals and show their commitment to data privacy. This builds trust with the audience, which is critical for successful cold emailing.

Reaping the Benefits of GDPR Compliant Cold Emails

GDPR compliant cold emails can bring several benefits. It ensures businesses are on the right side of the law, avoiding hefty fines. Additionally, it builds trust with recipients, improves email deliverability, and enhances brand reputation.

Reviewing Your Cold Email Strategy

Ensure your cold email strategy aligns with GDPR. This includes checking if the data collected is necessary, whether you’ve informed data subjects about how much data is processing, and whether your emails include an unsubscribe link. Remember, GDPR compliance is not just about avoiding penalties but about respecting individual’s data rights.

GDPR and the Future of Cold Emailing

The introduction of GDPR is not a threat to cold emailing. Instead, it provides a framework for businesses to carry out cold emailing ethically and responsibly. By focusing on building genuine relationships and providing value to your audience, businesses can turn GDPR into an opportunity for growth.

Your Partner in GDPR Compliant Cold Emailing: Mailarrow

Cold emailing under GDPR doesn’t have to be a challenge. With Mailarrow, our cold email outreach software, you can send GDPR compliant cold emails with ease. Mailarrow provides features that simplify GDPR compliance, allowing you to focus on crafting effective cold emails that convert. Sign up today and experience the power of GDPR compliant cold emailing.

As we’ve seen, cold emailing under GDPR is not just possible, but when done right, can be a powerful tool for your business. The key is to understand the requirements of GDPR, implement them in your cold email campaigns, and respect the data rights of your recipients. With the right approach and the right tools, you can master GDPR compliant cold emails.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are cold emails GDPR compliant?

Cold emails can be GDPR compliant if they respect the data privacy rights of individuals, provide an opt-out mechanism, collect minimal necessary data, and have a legitimate reason for the data processing.

Can you email customers under GDPR?

Yes, you can email customers under GDPR as long as you have their consent, or have another lawful basis for processing their personal data. Ensure transparency about how their data is being processed.

Serge Shlykov is the founder of Mailarrow. Rotterdam Business School graduate and a long-time software engineer he has been running his own agency and SaaS business before realizing how many people are struggling with cold email outreach. This made him create Mailarrow, the cold email outreach software that helps you build great relationships at scale. Find him on Twitter and LinkedIn

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