5 steps brands can take to get started with data ethics


Data-driven thinking“is written by members of the media community and contains new ideas about the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Sharon Zezima, Chief Data Ethics Officer of Acoustic.

The ability of businesses to navigate the data landscape becomes increasingly complex with each set of government regulations. The enactment of new regulations is naturally followed by an increase in litigation, which can quickly make brands – and retailers in particular – even more cautious in their actions: every day our news feeds are filled with stories about private life “.

Unfortunately, it is not enough to think of “privacy”. The challenges and opportunities are much broader and require a systematic and comprehensive approach.

Consumers are increasingly involved in the way their data is collected and used by brands, which makes them more invested in the data practices of companies. Confidentiality remains a priority, but there are other concerns when it comes to data collection as well.

It’s the age of data ethics, and brands need to prepare for it.

Step 1: Hire a Data Ethics Officer

Moving from discussions of privacy and protection to discussions of ethics and trust requires not only a change of perspective, but also a change in people and processes. Hiring a Chief Data Ethics Officer (CDEO) affirms your company’s commitment to sourcing data ethically. This executive can be your company’s North Star for any data ethics conversation – internally with employees or externally with customers, partners and to create a broader dialogue with industry.

The role of the CDEO is relatively new, but it is expected to grow in popularity as companies change the way they think about data processes. Searches on Glassdoor and LinkedIn do not result in any specific CDEO open positions, as of this writing at the end of May 2021. The positions of Chief Data Officers and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officers are similar, but not all summarize the responsibilities of a CDEO.

Consumers today demand that brands be ethical – get ahead of the curve by showing your commitment.

Step 2: Establish your data ethics principles

Every business needs to review its data practices to establish a set of organizational principles that will guide them into the future. I define data ethics as a way to ensure that data is collected and used lawfully, morally and fairly.

Understanding and adopting a data ethics mindset will help you move from simply reacting to each new privacy mandate as it arises, to creating a proactive stance and functioning as a leader – for your customers and your industry – rather than a follower.

Step 3: Reassess your processes

Now is the time to take stock of all the tactical efforts underway to address data privacy and hygiene. You’re probably in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, but are there other processes you should establish to enforce your new data ethics principles?

Some companies like Apple and Google are taking a proactive approach to self-regulation when it comes to their data processes. As the debate continues over the effectiveness of their new practices, it is clear that these brands understand the power of public opinion and have taken steps to build consumer confidence.

We haven’t seen how these changes will impact the data practices of other companies yet, but as the conversation around data evolves, big brands are poised to go further than the laws require. to build trust with consumers.

Step 4: Be transparent

Just as the global diamond supply chain has come under scrutiny and pressure from consumers globally, so has the data supply chain.

Brands need to embrace this new reality now. Transparency is crucial to build trust. Begin the process of creating full transparency every step of the way and every change of hand. In the near future, it is very likely that transparency will become a non-negotiable part of every contract and partnership.

By giving consumers insight into how their data is collected, stored, used, shared and deleted, you demonstrate that nothing malicious is happening behind the scenes. Make the effort to share updates, best practices, and different options for consumers so they have the power to make choices about how their data is used.

Step 5: Continuously assess the accuracy and quality of your data

Ethical use of data also means ensuring that the data you collect is accurate. Too often, brands let their data get dirty: outdated, inaccurate, incomplete or duplicated. When brands store dirty data, they risk losing the trust of consumers when they use that information in ways that don’t make sense or resonate.

For example, you might aim to engage with a mid-level manager at a retail company, but the contact you recorded has either been promoted or left the company. The information you have is no longer accurate. Therefore, when you send a marketing message, it doesn’t resonate and the individual assumes that you are out of step with their needs.

Build confidence now and reap the rewards

Depending on the role your business plays – vendor, advertiser, media or infrastructure – you will approach the concept of data ethics differently.

By taking proactive steps to establish your data ethics practices, you will be able to strengthen your company’s role in the ever-changing data landscape.

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