What is consent management
Home Resources Articles What you need to know about consent management - A full guide

What you need to know about consent management – A full guide

Obtaining consumers’ consent to collect and process personal data is becoming standard practice. But consent must be obtained, documented, and managed in specific ways to comply with regulations, guidelines, and the requirements of business partners companies rely on. We explain how to do it right.
by Usercentrics
Jul 2, 2024
What is consent management
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Companies rely on data to create more personalized experiences, improve their products, and gather information about target audiences and their preferences. However, with privacy laws, policies, and guidelines becoming the standard around the world, this must be done correctly. Otherwise, brands risk hefty fines, loss of data, and damage to brand reputation and customer trust.


We delve into everything you need to know about how to gather and manage consent in a way that enables compliance with data privacy requirements, business specifications, and how to deliver a great user experience. We also explain how a consent management platform can make this process easier and more streamlined.

At its core, consent management is about ensuring customers, visitors, and users have clear choices to agree to or decline the collection and use of their personal data on websites, apps, and other properties. It also requires documenting and securely storing this information. For companies, customer consent management is a critical component of data privacy compliance and customer trust.


While they might seem like pretty similar concepts, consent management and preference management serve different purposes in the realm of data privacy and user experience. However, both concepts work together to create a great customer experience.


Consent management is primarily about obtaining legal permission to collect and use personal data, as required by privacy regulations. It involves users opting in or out of data collection and processing, helping to ensure compliance with legal mandates and the requirements of platforms companies rely on for advertising, analytics, and more.


On the other hand, preference management enables users to customize their experience and communication preferences with a company, such as choosing email frequency or topics of interest.


While consent management focuses on the legal aspects of data collection and usage, preference management is more about enhancing user experience and personalization.


Typically, consent management is implemented through cookie banners and opt-in forms, whereas preference management is facilitated via preference centers or account settings. Both practices aim to give users more control over their interactions with a company, but they address different aspects of user engagement and data handling. The ultimate goal is to enhance marketing operations and provide seamless, personalized experiences driven by user consent and preferences.

Consent management laws are regulations that dictate how businesses must collect, handle, and manage a person’s consent for using their personal data. Depending on the law or guidelines, requirements may affect all businesses, only those of a certain size, or those engaged in certain types of data handling.


Probably the most influential consent management law, and the first of the “modern era” of data privacy, was introduced in 2018 in the European Union with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This obligates companies to ask for permission before collecting or processing personal information of EU residents.


Consent management, in the context of GDPR, refers to the process of obtaining, recording, and managing user consent for the collection and use of their personal data. Key aspects of GDPR consent management include:

  • Explicit consent: Users must actively opt-in to data collection and processing.
  • Specificity: Consent must be specific to each purpose for which data is collected.
  • Informed consent: Users must be clearly informed about what data is being collected and how it will be used.
  • Freely given: Consent cannot be coerced or bundled with other terms.
  • Withdrawable: Users must be able to withdraw their consent as easily as they gave it.

Since then, consent management has become an integral part of data privacy compliance. Laws such as:

  • The Digital Markets Act (DMA) which requires designated “gatekeeper” platforms to obtain explicit user consent before collecting or using personal data for certain purposes, such as online advertising or combining data from different services.
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) in the United States require businesses to obtain explicit consent from consumers before collecting or using sensitive personal information, such as precise geolocation data, racial or ethnic origin, or biometric information. Additionally, the CPRA mandates that businesses provide clear and conspicuous methods for consumers to opt out of the sale or sharing of their personal information, including a “Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information” link on their websites.
  • Brazilian General Data Protection Law (LGPD) which states that consent must be “free, informed and unambiguous,” meaning it must be given voluntarily, with clear information provided to the user, and through a specific, unequivocal action. The law requires that consent be obtained for a specific purpose, that users can revoke consent at any time, and that special provisions are in place for obtaining consent for processing children’s data.
  • Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) requires organizations to obtain meaningful consent from individuals before collecting, using, or disclosing their personal information. Consent is considered valid only if it’s reasonable to expect that individuals understand the nature, purpose, and consequences of the data processing.
  • China’s Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) requires that consent for processing personal information must be voluntary, explicit, and informed, with individuals having a clear understanding of the purpose, method, and scope of data processing. Additionally, the law mandates separate consent for processing sensitive personal information, sharing data with third parties, and transferring data overseas.
  • Japan’s Act on the Protection of Personal Information (APPI) recognizes that consent is necessary for specific circumstances, such as when handling sensitive personal information or transferring data to third parties, but does not require consent for all data processing activities.

have also been passed and implemented. Each of these regulates consent management as part of its requirements.

Consent management isn’t just a box to tick or a nice to have—it’s a must-have. It’s a legal obligation in many countries, and failing to properly manage consent preferences can lead to hefty fines and legal headaches. Even more concerning for many companies, they may risk losing access to their digital advertising revenue from platforms like Google if they don’t meet consent signaling requirements.


Consent management is also the cornerstone of building trust in our digital world. Think about it: every day, we’re all leaving digital footprints across the web. Our data is like our digital DNA, and we should have a say in how it’s used, right?


That’s where consent management comes in. It’s about empowering users to make informed choices about their personal data. It’s not just about complying with regulations. It’s about respecting people’s right to privacy and giving them control over their information and online experience. And when users provide explicit consent, the resulting data is more likely to be accurate and relevant, accompanied by higher engagement, leading to more insightful analytics and more effective decision-making processes.


So one could say that consent management is a win-win. Users feel respected and in control, while businesses can tailor experiences more effectively with the data they’re explicitly allowed to use. It’s about creating a more ethical, user-centric internet where everyone’s rights are protected.

What is the lifecycle of consent management?


Consent lifecycle management refers to the entire consent lifecycle: obtaining, recording, managing, and maintaining user consent for data collection and processing.


Here are the key aspects of consent lifecycle management:

  • Obtaining consent: This in volves clearly informing users about what data is being collected, how it will be used, who will have access to it, among other information, and obtaining explicit permission. Consent must be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.
  • Recording consent: Organizations must keep detailed records of when and how consent was obtained, and changes to consent preferences over time, including the specific consent text users agreed to.
  • Managing consent: This includes providing users with easy ways to view, modify, or withdraw their consent at any time. It also involves updating consent when there are changes to data processing activities or policies.
  • Enforcing consent: Organizations must ensure that data is only collected and processed according to the specific consent given by users.
  • Auditing and compliance: Maintaining a clear audit trail of consent activities is crucial for demonstrating compliance with data protection regulations like the GDPR, and complying with data subject access requests.
  • Updating and renewing consent: When there are significant changes to how data is used or processed, organizations may need to obtain fresh consent from users.
  • Consent expiration and deletion: Organizations must respect consent expiration dates if applicable and ensure data is deleted or anonymized when consent is withdrawn or expires.

There are two main types of consent that companies need to be aware of, and, depending on relevant laws or policies, govern how organizations obtain permission from individuals to use their personal data.


Opt-in consent


Also known as explicit or prior consent. This requires users to actively give their permission before or at the time when any non-essential cookies are set or personal data is otherwise collected. This method typically involves clicking an “Accept” or “Allow” button and is designed to comply with strict data protection regulations like the GDPR.


Opt-in consent ensures that users make a clear, affirmative action to allow cookie usage. Under some laws it’s also necessary for consent to be granular, so, for example, users can consent to some types of cookie use, but not others.


Opt-out consent


Also known as implied consent, operates on the assumption that cookies can be set or other data collection mechanisms used by default (i.e. the law allows it) unless the user takes action to refuse their use. In this model, users can usually manage their preferences or reject cookies through a provided link or button.


However, this approach is generally not compliant with stricter privacy laws such as the GDPR. The United States is currently the most prominent country using this model for its data privacy regulations. Even with opt-out consent, there are usually some forms of data that are excluded, and for which prior consent is needed. Typically, these include data categorized as sensitive, and data belonging to children.

First-party cookies have become increasingly important as privacy regulations tighten and third-party cookies phase out. 


Consent management involves obtaining and maintaining user permission for data collection and use, particularly through first-party cookies. These cookies, set by the website a user is visiting, allow businesses to gather valuable data about user behavior and preferences.


First-party data is becoming essential for digital marketing and user experience. With third-party cookies fading out, businesses are focusing on first-party data to better understand and connect with their audiences. This data is more accurate, reliable, and ethically sourced. It allows direct communication with users, leading to more personalized experiences and stronger customer relationships.


Moreover, first-party data meets growing consumer demands for privacy and transparency. By using data from their own platforms, companies give users more control over their information while still gaining valuable insights. This builds trust and creates more relevant and engaging user experiences.

A consent management platform (CMP) is a software solution designed to help organizations collect, manage, and store user consent in compliance with data protection regulations such as the EU’s GDPR, California’s CCPA, and Brazil’s LGPD.


A CMP like Usercentrics makes it easier to obtain legally compliant user consent through mechanisms like personalized and on-brand cookie banners, multi-language support, and A/B testing to increase your opt-in rates. Thus, helping ensure that consent is collected transparently and can be easily changed or revoked.


Usercentrics CMP solutions also track and record consent preferences, providing a centralized repository that can be used to demonstrate compliance in the case of a regulatory audit or if a user requests a copy of their personal data, including consent history.


By automating and streamlining consent management, CMPs not only help businesses adhere to legal requirements but also enhance user trust by giving individuals greater control over their personal data.

A CMP such as Usercentrics helps businesses manage the entire lifecycle of personal data.


When a user visits a website, Usercentrics displays a customizable consent banner or pop-up that informs visitors about the types of data being collected, how it will be used, third parties that may have access to it, and other required notifications. Users can then choose to accept or reject different categories of data collection and processing, like cookie use for marketing, analytics, etc.


Once consent is given, Usercentrics records and stores this information securely in a central repository. This enables proof of compliance in the case of a regulatory audit. Our platform also communicates these consent preferences to other systems and third-party vendors involved in data processing, such as analytics tools or advertising partners.


For example, Usercentrics CMP integrates with the latest version of Google Consent Mode. This enables companies to signal to Google services different tags based on user preferences.


Usercentrics also enables up-to-date and ongoing management of user consent. The cookie and tracking technology scanner automatically detects and blocks cookies before user consent is obtained, and regularly scans your website to keep cookie lists up to date.

Discover Usercentrics top features and how this CMP can help your business manage consent.

How to choose the right CMP for your company?

To pick the right consent management solution for your company, you’ll want to look at:

  • regulatory and business privacy requirements (including auditing)
  • degree of customization and implementation complexity
  • integration options
  • technical resource requirements
  • scalability
  • pricing, particularly if monthly, per domain, etc.
  • analytics and reporting functionality

If you have a simple website and an audience or customer base located in a limited area (e.g., only in the region covered by the GDPR), and thus only need to comply with one regulation, many CMPs can get the job done, and a number of them offer basic features for free. But be sure to check the CMP’s functionality against requirements of relevant regulations, frameworks, or business stipulations, like the latest ones from Google.


Larger organizations will likely require more robust and scalable functionality, multi-regulation and language support, and full customization and branding options. Therefore, an enterprise-grade consent management platform that offers advanced features, customization options, extensive integrations, and seamless scalability might better suit enterprises seeking to achieve compliance with multiple regulations across many sites and platforms.

Usercentrics understands how important privacy is to both you and your customers. That’s why our solution can help you organize and oversee the entire consent management lifecycle.


Usercentrics also offers more than 2,200 legal templates which will help explain the consent management lifecycle and make it easier to set up the processes your company needs to be compliant. And our platform also offers a Preference Manager which easily integrates into the Usercentrics CMP.


From obtaining compliant consent to staying up to date with cookies in use and evolving regulations, Usercentrics makes the consent management process easier.

Experience what Usercentrics CMP can do for you. Sign up for a free trial today


What is consent management?

Consent management is the process of obtaining, recording, and managing user consent for the collection and use of their personal data in accordance with legal requirements. It involves informing users about how their data will be used, allowing them to decide what data they are willing to share, and ensuring compliance with privacy regulations by tracking and storing these consents over time.

What is cookie consent management?

Cookie consent management is the process of obtaining, recording, and managing user permission for websites to collect and use personal data through cookies on the web. It typically involves displaying a cookie banner to visitors, enabling them to accept or reject different types of cookies, and achieving compliance with privacy regulations by tracking and storing these consent choices over time.

What is the consent management process?

The consent management process involves obtaining, recording, and managing user permission for the collection and use of their personal data. It typically includes informing users about data collection practices, providing options to accept or reject different types of data processing, and maintaining records of user consent choices to ensure compliance with privacy regulations.

What is a consent management platform (CMP)?

A consent management platform (CMP) is a tool that helps organizations obtain, manage, and document user consent for data collection and processing to comply with privacy regulations. It typically includes features like customizable consent banners, granular consent options, and mechanisms for users to view and modify their consent preferences. High-performance CMPs enable scanning for cookies in use, granular analytics, and A/B testing to optimize consent rates via the consent banner over time.

How does a consent management platform work?

A consent management platform (CMP) works by displaying a cookie banner to users when they visit a website, app, or other connected platform, and asking for their consent to collect and use their personal data. Once consent is given, the CMP records and stores this information, for data collection practices that comply with privacy regulations and enable users to manage their consent preferences at any time.

What are common consent management platform features?

Common consent management platform features typically include customizable consent banners or pop-ups, granular consent options for different data processing activities, and mechanisms for users to easily view and modify their consent preferences. Additionally, these platforms often offer consent logging and storage, integration with marketing and analytics tools, and reporting capabilities to help organizations demonstrate compliance with privacy regulations.

What are the GDPR consent management requirements?

The GDPR consent management requirements stipulate that consent must be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous, with users actively opting into data collection and processing. Consent mechanisms cannot manipulate users into giving consent, like only providing an “Accept” button. Additionally, organizations must clearly explain how the data will be used and by whom, provide easy ways for users to withdraw consent, and maintain records of obtained consent to demonstrate compliance.

How does privacy relate to consent management?

Privacy and consent management are closely intertwined concepts that focus on protecting user data and respecting individual privacy rights. Consent management enables data privacy. They involve implementing systems and processes to inform users about data collection practices, obtain their explicit consent for data processing activities, and provide ongoing control over their personal information.

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