Consider this: Consumers don’t trust the way organizations use their data. CEOs are concerned that lack of trust will harm reputation and growth. People who don’t trust companies are less likely to buy from them. Yet the default option for businesses using consumer data is that it’s a right, not a privilege.
That tide is turning, and quickly.
Our new report, “The Trust Imperative: A Framework for Ethical Data Use,” explores the dynamics driving people’s concerns about data use, recent research about their attitudes and behaviors, and proposals by industry leaders such as The Information Accountability Forum, The Governance Lab (GovLab) at New York University and The World Economic Forum.
Our objective for this research is to propose an approach for data use that reveals insight and honors the trust of consumers, citizens and communities.
And, while ethical data use is a fraught issue today, it will be even more so in the near future. As predictive analytics, virtual reality and artificial intelligence move into the mainstream, the implications (and capabilities) of data will become even more urgent and complex.
We no longer live in a world where privacy is binary; it’s as contextual and fluid as the networks, services and devices we use, and the ways in which we use them.
The next step is to make the topic of ethical data use–admittedly a broad and undefined one–pragmatic and actionable. We do this by bringing together the principles of ethical data use developed by the Information Accountability Foundation (IAF) and the specific stages of data use into a cohesive framework.
Our thesis is simple: ethical data use must be woven into the fabric of the organization;
weakness in one area can leave the entire organization exposed.
In addition to this framework, the report lays out an argument for why ethical data use is a brand issue, annotated by examples from multiple industries. It includes actionable recommendations to enable organizations to apply these principles pragmatically.
Clearly, this is just the beginning; we will continue to deepen this research and learn best practices from academics who are exploring these issues and businesses who are faced with these questions and challenges every day. We are also in the process of building a roadmap for ethical data use from this framework that will help organizations assess and remediate the risks (and uncover the opportunities) related to their use of data.
My thanks to everyone who, implicitly or explicitly contributed to this report. Most importantly, I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to the Information Accountability Foundation, whose excellent “A Unified Ethical Frame for Big Data Analysis” underpins this framework. I would also like to thank my colleague Jessica Groopman, who collaborated on the research and framework development, and whose excellent research on “Consumer Perceptions of Privacy in the Internet of Things” will be published shortly.
As always, we welcome your feedback, questions and suggestions as we work to add clarity and action to a complex topic.