Here’s why it’s vital to have a solid, transparent data ethics policy and communicate it clearly to employees, clients, and customers.
You might be scratching your head, wondering what data ethics is and how it could affect your company. Data ethics is the practice of how you collect, generate, analyze, and distribute structured and unstructured data.
Creating your data ethics policy includes deciding the Dos and Don’ts regarding the treatment and use of client data. With the growing use of AI, your approach has to address all actions’ transparency and defensibility and do the right thing, whether human or not.
In keeping up with AI, businesses must foster a data literate workforce. This means training employees to use data to make informed, transparent, ethical decisions. It also means providing the tools needed to access and analyze information. As a result, you can improve your employees’ decision-making processes, increase productivity, and better understand your customers.
Business benefits of a transparent data ethics policy
Every day, your business generates and collects massive amounts of data. This data is used to make informed business decisions, improve customer experiences, and increase revenue. However, with this power comes a responsibility to use and protect data fairly and ethically.
Your ethics drive how you collect, use, store, and protect customer and employee data. Having a solid, transparent data ethics policy helps you in the following ways:
- Build trust with your clients by making fairness, privacy, transparency, and accountability part of your policy. It’ll help you uphold your reputation and brand value.
- Bias, unintentional or not, can creep in and can negatively impact your business decisions. So hit the ground running by creating and maintaining data ethics principles and standards that demonstrate fairness and equity in all data-driven decisions.
- Stay ahead of privacy compliance issues by adhering to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). While these 2 policies do not directly affect ethics, they remind us to stay on the right side of the law, be accountable, and inform us of AI principles. They help us to ensure AI is kept in check.
GDPR, CCPA, and creating an ethical data policy
Nobody likes audits, but you should regularly review your existing data and cybersecurity policies. For example, knowing the right way to ask for consent and then collect, track, and store customer and employee data is crucial before creating an effective policy. Also, don’t forget to review the GDPR and CCPA requirements.
GDPR requires businesses to tell customers about their data collection and use. It also requires businesses to report data leaks within 72 hours.
Regularly review your existing data and cybersecurity policies.
In addition, your clients must be able to access their data and delete it if they choose. You might have to appoint a data protection professional. You could be liable for fines if you don’t follow the guidelines.
CCPA is even more strict. For example, customers in California must be informed of all data collection and use and have a right to demand the deletion of their data when requested. In addition, you can’t sell any personally identifiable information (PII) about anyone under 16 without consent.
Send out an email or newsletter to clients and employees to show how they are protected and that they can remain confident that their personal information is kept safe and confidential. Better safe than sorry.
The consequences of unethical data practices
Your data may be scattered across your business and come into contact with various functions. That’s why a cross-functional policy development effort is essential to ensure that data is managed effectively. The first step is making sure everyone in the organization understands the importance of data management and the consequences of not adhering to your policy.
Unethical data practices can seriously damage your reputation and credibility.
Unethical data practices can be lethal to your business. Improper data handling can lead to identity theft, fraud, and other crimes. In some cases, leaked data can cause manipulation of customers or unfair treatment of employees.
Furthermore, unethical data practices can also seriously damage your reputation and credibility. You may find 1 data breach enough to make it challenging to attract and retain customers, employees, and other business partners.
In 2021, 94% of companies polled reported a data breach within the last year, and 84% of those were due to employee errors. Whether accidental or deliberate, the results can be catastrophic. One intentional violation will cost you $7,500, and $2,500 for unintentional ones. If you want to reduce the risk of data breaches, train your employees to spot phishing scams and other possible cyberattacks.
Empower your workforce and your customers
Gathering data is easy, but making it actionable, reliable, and valuable is challenging. There is no secret to effective data management. Good data allows you to conclude why some strategies work and others don’t.
Improving data literacy across your team is essential because data is only helpful if you use it wisely. Therefore, your team needs to be on board to make better data-driven decisions.
One challenge with data privacy is that many people do not realize how much personal information a company is collecting at any given time. Whenever customers use their Facebook or Google accounts to register for new products or services, their data is immediately stored and sold to the highest bidder.
The biggest problem is that most are willing to give their information away for convenience. Your customers deserve better. Treat them like valued friends, not commodities. Tell them everything before they sign up, and don’t leave the majority in the fine print. Make it clear what your customers are signing up for and how the company will store and use their data.
The three Es of prevention: educate, educate, educate
It would be great if every employee understood and agreed with your data ethics policies. But you have to get both your new and seasoned employees ready in the real world.
During employee onboarding, inform new workers about the skills they need to know to become data-capable. Employees must agree with and respect your company’s data ethics policies for them to work.
Be it through a conversation at lunch or a company-wide message, teaching data literacy at regular intervals will significantly improve your company’s readiness to act in a breach or other threat. Remind them how to handle data carefully and responsibly and share your data policies across all departments. If employees are unlikely to read policies through, give them the TLDR version.
As much as it bemoans you, make training compulsory for all employees, paying particular attention to employees who handle the most sensitive data, including your HR, marketing, finance, and IT teams.
Teach staff to recognize breaches and report them accordingly, remembering that GDPR requires your company to report breaches to affected consumers within 72 hours so that they can secure their information. Lastly, be ready to enact disciplinary procedures for employees who violate GDPR, CCPA, and company data policies.
Are employees uncertain about data? Let them ask
Perspective is everything. It can strengthen your data and the veracity of what you derive from it. Data is messy and imperfect, so the more people you work with, the more likely you will get something useful.
Questions like, What are we missing?, How does this help us accomplish our goals?, and Is everyone seeing the data the same way? could become insightful conduits of conversation.
Guiding your team with data literacy encourages your employees to be successful in their roles. It also improves cross-departmental collaboration and increases their feelings of value in your company.
However, getting better at navigating the complex world of data is no easy feat. That means you may have to set aside specific times for everyone to learn or reward those who level up their data skills.
Your data ethics policy and workforce data literacy define you
Data ethics and data literacy are essential for the future of the workforce and society. They are 2 defining characteristics of your business. To ensure that your company upholds the highest standards of data ethics, you have to have a policy in place to make sure all employees are well-versed in it. When all employees are adequately trained in data security and privacy, you can minimize the risk of a data breach.
- Create a data ethics policy your employees are willing to adopt
- Conduct training so that staff is fully aware of your data ethics policy
- Enlighten your employees on the benefits of data literacy
- Let your employees know the consequences of unethical data practices
- Make your company a safe place to ask questions
As the world becomes more reliant on data and AI, you will continually need to instill trust in your employees and customers that all their data is accurate and ethically collected and stored. By creating a workforce that embraces data literacy and enforces data ethics, you and your company can protect your customers, employees, and reputation.