Considerations on the rising importance of ethics in data privacy

17.01.2019

Robert Bond explores the rising of ethics concerns in data privacy, in his article for January issue of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics’ magazine CEP.
Athough there has been much attention on data protection as a result of the European Union General Data Protection Regulation as well as the flurry of similar legislation in other parts of the world, including California, Brazil, Bahrain, Kenya, and South Africa, the focus for the most part has been on compliance with law and regulation.

Ethics has been a central issue for many sectors for a while, but the increasing use of technology raises concerns about not only compliance with law and professional standards, but also ethics and personal data.
The 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners has released a Declaration on Ethics and Data Protection in Artificial Intelligence. In it, the conference endorsed several guiding principles as “core values” to protect human rights as the development of artificial intelligence continues apace.
Recently the well-known analyst Gartner named digital ethics and privacy as one of their top 10 strategic technology trends for 2019.
As businesses become used to concepts such as privacy by design and make effective use of privacy impact assessments, so the notion that “just because we can, doesn’t always mean we should” is becoming a norm.
Recent well-publicized data breaches and fines are having an impact on organizations in regard to damage to their brand and their position of trust in the eyes of both shareholders and consumers.
The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) recently published a summary of outcomes from its public consultation on digital ethics, and the topic was also discussed at length at the 2018 International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners.
The EDPS publication indicated that more than 80% of respondents to their survey affirmed that ethics relating to new technologies is, or will soon be, on the agenda of their organization, many of them considering it “important,” “extremely relevant,” or even “mandatory” and “a priority.”
Many of the respondents to the survey acknowledged that ethics is more than a tick-the-box exercise and goes beyond merely complying with the law and that “failing in the transparent and fair processing of data can have disruptive effects on the business.”
Even if Scott McNealy was right in 1999 (when he reportedly said, “You have zero privacy anyway — Get over it.”), individuals deserve respect for their privacy. This respect does not always have to be imposed by law, but should be a matter of integrity and ethics.

Robert Bond

Author