Codes of ethics catch up to data
In light of regulations like GDPR, leaders assess the future of ethical data practices.
The topic of data privacy has risen in prominence and consumers are more conscious than ever around sharing personal data. This is affecting how businesses approach data monetization, data collection, and data sharing. And with new regulations like GDPR, companies are having crucial conversations around data ethics and privacy in the context of their day-to-day business practices. This surfaces through:
Codes of ethics: Many roles are already bound to professional codes of ethics including those in law, medicine, and accounting. And as data continues to proliferate in every area of business, companies are starting to evaluate how to apply these same principles to data analytics practices. As Gartner shared, "the digital business era has blurred the boundaries between technology and business" and data is now a critical piece to the strategic puzzle. More companies are relying on data to shape business decisions within every department and role—meaning more people have a stake in how data is used and shared.
In response, leaders, particularly chief data officers (CDOs), are leading the charge in shaping internal guidelines for company-wide data practices as part of digital transformation efforts. In fact, Gartner’s Chief Data Officer survey from 2017 revealed that "the number of CDOs saying ethics is part of their responsibilities has increased by 10 percentage points from 2016 to 2017." These codes of ethics will serve as a framework for future infrastructure, governance, and staffing decisions.
Changes in business processes: Companies are thinking critically about the entire lifecycle of their data from collection to analysis. This opens up an opportunity to assess the company’s data management strategy as a whole to ensure compliance with both regulations and their internal code of ethics. This review process isn’t a one-time occurrence. As Accenture noted in its Universal principles of data ethics report, "governance practices should be robust, known to all team members and reviewed regularly," adapting as the company grows and changes.
Data ethics isn’t restricted to data collection or data governance. It also applies to how data is interpreted and acted upon. Modern BI platforms have opened up data analysis to the many, and more roles will be responsible for following data ethics principles. Bridget Winds Cogley, Senior Consultant at Teknion Data Solutions proposes that anyone analyzing data or communicating insights should "consider biases and whether or not facts are being presented clearly" and whether or not "the limits of the data are understood and fit the question." As more people become data workers, data ethics will be a core part of data literacy efforts, affecting how people approach data in both personal and professional contexts.