Ethical Risks of Big Data: The Elephant in the Room

Just the other day, Sheryl Sandberg “apologized” for the Facebook Mood Manipulation Study that had been held without explicit user opt in. It was but another drop in the ethical debate ocean that has been gaining traction by the day.

Clearly big data is a double edged sword. All marketers praise it for the tremendous amount of insights that one gets that increasing efficiency across the organization. However in the quest for these insights, it seems that more are more examples are faced with the challenge of determining where to draw the line when it comes to privacy.

Whilst big data reduces financial, operational and strategic risk, it significantly increases the reputational risk of  a brand. Financial times predicts that by 2016,  25 percent of organizations using consumer data will have faced reputational damage due to the inadequate understanding of the issues. 20 percent of information officers will also face job losses over this time.

Despite the various suggestions that there have been to curb this such as anonymity, terms and conditions etc there is still difficulty in achieving full compliance due to various reasons

1. Anonymity or full user masking is difficult to achieve, no useful database can be truly anonymous

2. Consumers are hardly fully aware of the circumstances that they are getting into- they hardly read the T&Cs

These are amongst a lot more. Financial times writers, Frank Buytendijk and Jay Heiser suggested a two step process to resolve this:

a. Initiate an ethical debate where all this matters will be discussed and proposed solutions given

b. Use the outcomes of this debate to develop a code of conduct that will of course need regular attention and re-enforcement.

Whats your take?







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