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Technology Leaders Meetup: Data Ethics

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"Data ethics: How should the industry balance user experience and privacy in the face of a data explosion?"

In 2018, the personal data of up to 87 million Facebook users were acquired via the 270,000 users who used the Facebook app, “This Is Your Digital Life”, without their permission, which was known as the Cambridge Analytica Facebook scandal. This scandal was a watershed moment in the history of data privacy. It shed light on what could happen to customer personal data in the wrong hands and had tangible effects on business and global politics.

Whilst many businesses around the globe have moved to a data-driven model and are working hard to analyze customers’ data to scale businesses, many customers still have concerns about misuse of their data, as well as data privacy issues inherent within emerging technologies. It is obvious that data-driven strategies are becoming a strategic necessity for each company, however, it needs more work from companies to look at the ways in which they can collect users’ information without any conflict of interest. It’s a tricky balance.

HotTopics.ht invited our technology leaders to discuss therefore the balancing of user experience and data privacy, together evaluating the following points. Thank you to all the moderators for moderating their discussions and allowing the following to be captured:





1- Data-driven models

Collection and analysis of customer data is not something new for businesses—indeed nearly all are evolving themselves to be as digital data-driven as possible due to its huge impact on efficiency and future growth. But the rapid adoption of these practices doesn’t reflect the relatively low evaluation of the ethics of data collection. An “ask forgiveness, not permission” position has taken hold in some quarters, we heard, and due diligence in tandem with data direction should become the norm.


2- Legal systems

Our technology leaders highlighted what they called “the outdated legal framework of data privacy”. The lag time between law and innovation is infamously slow, but the EU’s GDPR directives and the US Senate challenges to ‘Big Tech’ shows that the once toothless system has found its bite. In an increasingly isolationist world order, it will be incumbent on businesses themselves to navigate what may become a patchy and localized legal system.


3- Users’ trust

Booking a hotel, traveling or creating an account to get a product or service; all are examples of a customer who trusts a company to share their personal information. The industry has been known to take that for granted. Our technology leaders pointed out that customers are willing to give their data but they still have concerns about how the company will use it and with whom this data will be shared. Transparency and confidentiality are key elements to build users’ trust—explain how it’s used, where it’s used and why.



4- Industry specifics

Balancing customer experience and privacy is of course contextual. For example, if you were in the health industry, the questions around data sensitivity would be very different from those in the retail industry, and the expectations customers place on you is different once more. Some technology leaders made it clear that any conversation about data ethics has to consider that it is different for different organizations in different sectors. Data ethics is a wide debate; be prepared to disagree to ensure you’re remaining appropriate to your position.


5- Cybersecurity and cyber crimes 

As many businesses shifted to data technology, cybercriminals became more active to hack, breach and access to customers’ data. Some technology leaders highlighted the importance of user behavior analytics (UBA) as a growing field, by which companies can improve cybersecurity approaches to protect users’ data.


6- The pandemic impact

Before the pandemic, the debate was between privacy vs personalization. However, after the implications of the pandemic on many businesses, the debate has moved to experience vs privacy.

Many technology leaders raised two important questions:

How has the pandemic influenced how we think about our data?

And how might this situation change the way we think about data ethics after the Pandemic?.


On 29 April we are broadcasting 24 roundtables on topics such as data, AI, cloud computing, 5g, leadership, remote workforce, and more. Additionally, technology leaders will be able to speed network with their peers. Register today: https://hopin.com/events/technology.

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