The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) published a data ethics report on the second anniversary of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) based on senior marketers responses to show what companies are doing (or not) to protect and secure consumers’ data. According to TheDrum, 74% of chief marketing officers (CMO) believe that data ethics will become more important to their role in the next five years, but only 48% of advertisers have an official data ethics policy. The marketers involved in the study represent companies who have an advertisement spending budget of $55 billion. For only 48% of these super powerful and rich companies to have data ethics policies is alarming to say the least.
Along with the study, the WFA released a guide or instructions for companies to make about improving their organization and management of users’ private data. The guide also encourages the marketers and companies to promote the issue of data ethics across their own businesses.
Considering 26% of the marketers in the study said they’d already been left feeling uncomfortable about the use of data at some time during their careers making the spreading of data ethics across their own businesses and industries even more crucial. TheDrum highlights four key factors or steps for companies to take via the guidebook,
- Respect: All data usage should respect the people behind the data and companies need to strive to understand the interests of all parties and use consumer data to improve people’s lives.
- Accountability: Consumers expect companies to have open and transparent data practices backed up by robust global and local governance. The same standards should be applied across partners, suppliers, publishers and platforms.
- Transparency: Although the online advertising ecosystem is complex, brands should apply transparency principles and work towards more open and honest data practices, particularly as AI and machine-learning approaches start to automate decisions.
- Fairness: Data usage should aim to be inclusive, acknowledge diversity and eliminate bias rather than dividing groups. Brands need to examine their data sets, mindsets and governance approach to ensure they are inclusive in the way they use data.
Hopefully with the study and guidelines companies will go beyond the minimum to ensure protection for consumers’ information. Targeted advertising and the collection of data are not inherently bad things, they allow companies to personalize interactions with the consumer in a mutually beneficial way when the data is handled properly. If a company shows they can handle data collection and use it with the highest level of transparency and ethics, it will help build a huge amount of trust amongst their customers, which can only benefit the business going forward. If one company shows the rest of the industry how well they handle data ethics, optimistically it can become a trend.