Marketers embrace the data ethics challenge

If customers are going to trust that brands use their personal data responsibly, marketers first need confidence in their company’s ability to handle this information internally. We outline the crucial role marketing leaders will play in fostering a more ethical approach to data management.

Today’s data protection regulation is not intended to punish brands. 

Its aim is to make them accountable for the significant power they hold. And if harnessed correctly, it can even be an opportunity for brand reputation.  The crackdown we’ve seen in recent months, including a 50 million euro fine for Google and accusations that streaming services like Amazon Prime are breaking the law, should be a wake-up call for marketers everywhere to put ethics at the forefront of their data strategy. 

But is it? 

Our research reveals just 39% of marketing decision-makers are highly confident in their organisation’s ethical use of data. Tellingly, just 39% feel fully confident in their ability to manage data securely. Even if we accept that most companies entrust digital security to their IT department (which we shouldn’t) this figure is startlingly low. IT are not the ones interfacing with customers, nor are they drawing on enormous volumes of data to communicate with those customers directly each day. 

Before customers and regulators can trust that brands are taking data protection and management seriously, marketing teams need to take responsibility for how within data is handled within their organisation. That doesn’t make them solely responsible for securing customer information, but they do have a central role to play in this joint mission for the entire business. 

The need will only become more pressing as marketing automation and AI systems grow in popularity. These technologies have the potential to deliver enormous value for brands and customers alike, but they raise a number of ethical concerns around entrusting algorithms to make decisions about customer data at scale. Here, the combined efforts of IT, marketing and HR will be crucial in rolling out AI in a way that is responsible and serves people’s best interests.
Reputation, customer loyalty, and shareholder confidence – all these factors are at risk without an ethical approach to customer data. There is a positive business potential here, in that your brand can be positively impacted and your customer data will be enriched.

Learn more about the role marketers will play in addressing these issues in our recent report.

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