Data ethics (or sustainable data management) is a reaction to the large role that data has come to play in digital economy. As people’s lives are becoming increasingly more digitized, more and more private information exists on the internet, such as private conversations on Facebook, healthcare information, conditions of employment on Contractbook or user information in RISMA Systems software. Data ethics is concerned with strengthening the consumer’s trust in digital economy by respecting their privacy.
Introduction to data ethics
The description by The Economist of data as “the new oil” emphasizes how data has become one of the most valuable resources in the world. Today, many companies have built their business model around collecting data in exchange for free services – Facebook is a great example. Concurrently with people turning their backs on fossil fuels and seeking out sustainable and green energy, they also look for solutions which protect their privacy. The increasing use of data-ethical solutions such as Adblock, alternative search engines and VPNs shows that people want to reclaim the control of their private information. A study from 2017 showed that consumers prefer privacy over targeted content.
The first initiative of data ethics is to fulfill the principles of proper data management. Data processing should be minimized by only collecting necessary data, and the most secure services should be used.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) protects consumers by giving them more control over their personal information by e.g. introducing the principles of privacy by design and privacy by default. These require companies to incorporate data protection in their technological infrastructure and design.
Data ethics is worth it
Data ethics as a competitive parameter
Despite secure and ethical management of data being time-consuming, it is well worth the effort. Even though many measures are legally mandatory, employing data ethics has some of the same benefits as having a good CSR policy. Just as companies expect an increase in their brand value by displaying social and environmental responsibility, they will also benefit from respecting and complying with the privacy demands of their users.