Industries must adopt ethics along with technology

A recent New York Times investigation into how smartphone-resident apps collect location data exposes why it’s important for the industry to admit that the ethics of individuals who code and commercialize technology is as important as the technology’s code itself.

For the benefit of technology users, companies building technologies must make efforts to raise awareness of their potential human risks — and be honest about how people’s data is used by their innovations. People developing innovations must demand from the C-suite — and boardrooms — of global technology companies commitment to ethical technology. Specifically, the business world needs to instill workforce ethics champions throughout company ranks, develop corporate transparency frameworks and hire diverse teams to interact with, create and improve upon these technologies.

Responsible handling of data is no longer a question

Our data is a valuable asset and the commercial insight it brings to marketers is priceless. Data has become a commodity akin to oil or gold, but user privacy should be the priority — and endgame — for companies across industries benefiting from data. As companies grow and shift, there needs to be an emphasis placed on user consent, clearly establishing what and how data is being used, tracking collected data, placing privacy at the forefront and informing users where AI is making sensitive decisions.

On the flip side, people are beginning to realize that seemingly harmless data they enter into personal profiles, apps and platforms can be taken out of context, commercialized and potentially sold without user consent. The bottom line: Consumers are now holding big data and big tech accountable for data privacy — and the public scrutiny of companies operating inside and outside of tech will only grow from here.

Whether or not regulators in the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and elsewhere act, the onus is on Big Tech and private industry to step up by addressing public scrutiny head-on. In practice, this involves C-suite and board-level acknowledgement of the issues, and working-level efforts to address them comprehensively. Companies should clearly communicate steps being taken to improve data security, privacy, ethics and general practices.

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