Defining your company’s data ethics is a great opportunity and competitive advantage

Defining your company’s data ethics is a great opportunity and competitive advantage

Facebook, Google and the data brokering industry are largely to blame for the fact that digital trust is at an all time low, but this does not only pose a challenge for businesses and organisations. It also presents an unique opportunity to make sound data ethics a competitive advantage.

When I sat down with Copenhagen-based Pernille Tranberg who is an acclaimed book author, adviser on data privacy and ethics and also Boye Aarhus 16 keynote speaker, I was quickly convinced that most organisations could benefit from solidifying and communicating a sound data policy to their customers.

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As Pernille said:

“International players such as Facebook and Google or even worse secret data brokers are directly selling data and capitalising on personal data behind your back. Keeping your customers confidence through a transparent data policy will become an ever more important competitive differentiator”

It is wise to pay attention to data ethics

Especially younger generations are becoming more aware of how big corporations are using their online personal data. Lawsuits against Facebook, such as the europe-v-facebook movement and the increasing use of ad-and cookie-blockers of other privacy tools have made it evident that privacy is becoming a top-of-mind priority for many customers.

This is why it is important for organisations to differentiate themselves from the unethical data practices that seems to be embedded in the DNA of many Silicon Valley companies. Clearly and honestly communicating to your customers what you are using and what you are not using their data for, can build trust — not least giving the customers control over their own data.

It isn’t surprising that a customer’s’ decision to deal with a business or not, is extremely dependent on the amount of goodwill — or lack thereof — that said business is perceived to hold for it’s customers. Even more so online where the business will be represented by a corporate website and not an employee who can lend human credibility.

The digital world needs to change

Personalisation of content and ads are one of the main reasons that corporations are interested in personal data. The idea is that the more data we can collect, the more revenue will go up and the better we can deliver customer experience.

Polls show that the opinion towards personalised ads is very based on age, but a large majority of people between the age of 18–70 are still hesitant towards personalised ads. We don’t feel that cookies are serving a good purpose.

Personalised ads are just that; personal. When presented with personalised ads not only our anonymity, but also our control over what we share with the world goes out the window. We are seeing a rise in the demand for services that shield users from massive corporations. Closed cloud-services such as German T-Systems are growing, because people no longer trust the sharing of information that goes on between digital giants and some private businesses.

It is also in tune with a general shift in regard to social, where actual activity is moving from places like the Facebook wall and into more closed and seemingly private chat apps. People are becoming less willing to share openly with anybody, and this certainly also includes corporations. However, surveys also show that if consumers trust that a company truly safeguards their data and don’t sell it to third parties behind their back, they are also much more willing to share their data with companies.

Data ethics is a part of CSR — communicate it

It is good step that websites are now obligated to get consent on cookies, but this practice has not really boosted customers trust in the businesses. Instead it has made explicit the point that businesses aren’t to be trusted.

This is why digitally based businesses should be very explicit about what they are doing, and what they are not doing with their customers’ data.

If communicated clearly and done honestly this could turn out to be a competitive advantage.