How to implement an actionable data ethics framework – TechCrunch


Did you know that your company’s data privacy practices can be a competitive differentiator? Usually we think of competitive differentiators around the level of service you provide, the quality of your products, or even the price of your solutions.

However, regardless of industry, if you are part of the personal data ecosystem, the way you manage that data could make or break your business – literally – which means it can also help you set yourself apart from your competition. .

Today’s consumers mistrust how companies use their data and will only share personal information for transactions they consider important, such as those in healthcare or financial services.

But winning the trust of consumers often goes hand in hand with winning their business: 87% of American consumers surveyed said they would not do business with a company if they were concerned about its privacy practices. Amid this lack of trust, companies like Google and Apple are taking proactive steps to position themselves favorably with consumers: Abandoned third-party cookies and the release of iOS 15 are two striking examples.

For other players in the data landscape, it is also essential to reassess your practices. Whether your business is just starting out or has an established market presence, there are specific steps you can take to position your business for success, and it all starts with developing and publishing a data ethics framework. .

Evaluate how customers want their data to be treated

A data ethics framework is a set of guiding principles for how your business collects, stores, uses, and deletes data. This framework will differ for each individual business depending on the industry it is in and the customers it interacts with, but at the most basic level it should understand what you believe and how you act.

The first step in creating this framework is to understand what the expectations of your customers and data subjects are for how they want their data to be treated. We call it the Platinum Rule: Process people’s data the way they or they want it treated.

What consents did they give? Are there any gaps in the way you communicate how their data is used? Do you have processes in place to not only collect data ethically, but also to delete it?

Evaluate your privacy policies and the experience consumers have with them (i.e. whether they are easy to understand) to understand at a granular level how consumers want their data to be treated.

Hire a data ethics officer

Hiring a Data Ethics Officer (CDEO) to oversee the creation of a data ethics framework is also a key step. Unlike the Chief Data Officer, who must manage the data and derive business value from it, the CDEO is primarily responsible for ensuring that data is used ethically by all employees and partners.

By dedicating a member of the management team to this specific task, your business shows that you aren’t just talking about data ethics because it’s the right thing to do – you are investing to ensure that ethics are followed. Datas.

Part of the CDEO’s mandate will be to create the Data Ethics Framework, but it shouldn’t be up to them alone – your entire management team, including CEO, CISO, Marketing Director, Product Manager. and engineering and chief data scientists need to be involved. Each of these stakeholders plays a role in the data ecosystem and should be part of the development of data ethics principles so that there is buy-in from all parts of the organization. Confidentiality practices are a central concern in which each of these actors is generally involved; now they also need to be involved in data ethics.

Evaluate your organization’s data practices

When the team is assembled to help develop your organization’s data ethics framework, now is the time to have a granular understanding of your data inventory process: what you collect, how you collect it. collect it and where you store it.

This technical understanding of what you do with data is something your business should already understand from a legal perspective. Make sure all stakeholders are clear and aligned on this process.

However, if the processes need to be changed, now is the time to do it. For example, if you review your privacy policies and find that they are too long, difficult to understand, or that users simply click without absorbing information, it may be necessary to rethink the way you present consent forms to confidentiality.

Rather than sharing a big block of text filled with legal jargon, consider a layered approach that uses familiar language and visuals, organizing information in a more digestible way. By presenting this information to users in a way they can understand, your business is poised to operate more ethically.

Operationalize your data ethics framework

Now is the time for your leadership team to align with how your business acts and, on a philosophical level, what you want it to become or do – this is the basis of your framework.

You should describe the specific actions your business is taking to uphold ethical data practices today by publishing the Principles of Data Ethics. But remember: the data landscape is constantly changing, which means your data ethics framework should too. It is essential to create a set of guiding principles that can be revised and refined over time.

These principles must be communicated to all internal and external stakeholders for your framework to take effect. Educate potential candidates about your data ethics principles through the job description or other means so that before they even start working for your company, they understand how critical ethical practices are.

After candidates are hired, make sure data ethics discussions are part of the onboarding. Provide continuous training at company and department level and make data ethics a fundamental issue of employee conduct. It’s not enough to make the principles readable – every employee, from CEO to interns, should be responsible for ethical data practices.

Your partners, suppliers, subcontractors and customers must also be informed of these practices. By integrating ethical data management into any business discussion, you can set expectations and ensure that your business aligns with other industry players who operate ethically. And when the principles of data ethics are readily available to any customer or partner, you’ll operate seamlessly, proving that nothing bad is happening behind the scenes.

Don’t wait to start

It’s never too late to create and implement a data ethics framework, but the best step a business can do is to implement this framework early in the business.

For start-ups, this is good news – it can be very difficult to fit this framework into business functions that are already on the move. For more established brands, this can be more difficult to implement, but the sooner you do it, the better off your business will be.

Once a data ethics framework is in place, remember to continually assess the accuracy and quality of your data. If you tap into outdated, incomplete, or inaccurate data, you risk losing customer trust, undermining all the work your business has done to operate more ethically.

Through continuous improvement and accountability, businesses can gain confidence and prepare for long-term success.


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