Jul 23, 2019

 This article originally appeared on Forbes 

Data ethics is not a subject that you would have expected to be a centerpiece of conversation among Chief Data Officers and senior business leaders in the recent past. However, times are changing. Just this past week, Apple CEO Tim Cook condemned what he called the “data-industrial complex”.   In calling for accelerated data protection regulation, Cook declared, “Our own information—from the everyday to the deeply personal—is being weaponized against us with military efficiency. Today, that trade has exploded into a data-industrial complex.”

Cook’s call comes among increasing attention to issues of data privacy and data protection, fueled in part by enactment earlier this year by the European Union of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Cook and others are calling for legislators in the United States to adopt similar federal privacy laws.

It is against this backdrop that data ethics has rapidly moved to the forefront of any meaningful discussion about data. A spate of recent articles -- Never Heard of Data Ethics? You Will Soon, It’s Time to Talk About Data Ethics, Data Ethics: The New Competitive Advantage, Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence – underscore the increasing urgency and highlight the ethical considerations that organizations must address when managing data as an asset, and considering its impact on individual rights and privacy.


I recently convened two thought-leadership roundtables of Chief Data Officers and executives with responsibility for data initiatives within their organizations. The increased focus and concern for the ethical use of data is born out of widespread reaction to recent and highly publicized misuses of data that represent breaches of public trust -- whether this be unauthorized data sharing by social media platforms, reselling of customer information by businesses, or biased algorithms that reinforce social inequalities.

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