Editor’s note: This blog was reposted with permission from AdExchanger. Read the original article here.
If you want your company to exist now and in the future, you will have to think and act with data; you must become data-driven and data-first. Think of it like looking under a microscope – data has always been there, but now we can see it more clearly, and in fact an entire dynamic data ecosystem exists that offers new and exciting opportunities.
With this comes interdependency on becoming more accountable—data can power your enterprise successfully, or, you can damage your brand and cause harm. Unethical parties can violate privacy norms, causing embarrassment and even social or financial damage to individuals. The stakes are high, especially when you consider that the global data market is expected to almost double—from more than $15 billion in 2018 to $26 billion in 2019.
How does someone in a leadership role think strategically about the reality of becoming data-driven in a responsible way to deliver benefits and prevent harms? They must ensure ethical data use. An accountability-based data ethics program can build trust with customers, minimize risk, and future-proof the business. Here’s how you can operationally embed data ethics to build true competitive advantage, ensuring brand trustworthiness and enabling innovation, speed, and long-term success.
Get Buy-in from the Top
Leadership must commit to operationalizing data ethics at all levels of your organization to lower the risk profile of data activations, data use, and data-driven solutions. If you have widespread and unanimous leadership commitment to be accountable or responsible for all data collection and use, that’s the first step; if those in charge believe it and are committed to it, everything else will follow.
Always Code Ethically
You must have ethical data use processes that govern all product development, as well as any machine learning and AI systems that act on the data. Taking this one step further, it’s also helpful to deploy an interrogation process in the design layer, evaluating each use of data and the potential outcomes. Remember, computer code is the conduct. Accountability must be methodically embedded within the engineering layer of all product development and data flow functions. In other words, as part of any ethical data program, you should be able to answer the question: how does this data relate to and benefit the individual?
Conduct an Internal Audit
Independent oversight starts with a thorough audit of all data and data uses. Organizations of all sizes must thoroughly interrogate the impact and consequence of data use for all stakeholders to balance maximum data enablement and risk management, always looking for opportunities to provide additional transparency and control. They must not only stand ready to demonstrate a commitment to internal policies and document the mechanisms which put those policies into effect, but also be willing and able to remediate when necessary.
Ensure Ethical Sourcing and Vendor/Partner Accountability
Data buyers and users have to understand the provenance of all data they source, as well as mitigate any risks with downstream use of their data. Depending on what your service or solution mix is, you might be responsible for clients’ use of onboarding events or use of data from a data marketplace. Make sure to thoroughly review the privacy policies of potential vendors or partners, and ask to review documentation of their data governance methodology to ensure appropriate permissions are secured. How are they enforcing stated policies within their enterprise? If they are unable to provide this quickly and easily, move on.
Globally we have GDPR, and in the U.S. we have CCPA, with many more pieces of potential legislation currently under evaluation at the state and federal level. You now have to think about ethical data use. If you’re in any leadership role—or even if you’re not—ask yourself: are you transparent? Can consumers understand how you are collecting, using, and sharing their data?
New laws are coming online soon. Future-proof your enterprise by transforming your data governance program into both a consultative resource for the enterprise as well as a mandated oversight and internal monitoring function. One of the best ways to put control back in the hands of the consumer is by creating your own data ethics program. It’s never too soon or too late to start.