Posted by Adam Stead | 12-Oct-2017 12:33:05

The forthcoming ‘right to be forgotten’ aims to change a world in which everything is remembered. Currently, clicking through the internet is like wading through deep snow. It is visible exactly where you have been.

The difference is that browsing online is easy – even frictionless. There is a fundamental discrepancy between the amount of data we produce and the amount it feels like we produce.

By 2018, 50% of business ethics violations will occur because of improper use of big data.[1] Next year, the General Data Protection Regulation will come into effect. Currently, businesses are likely to be undergoing reviews and on their way to implementing a new data policy. For many, this will be about compliance. But others will go further.



Some companies will consider writing an ethical data policy, which is stricter than the legal requirement. There is a growing consensus that an ethical data policy is both intrinsically worthwhile and strategically valuable, as it can help organisations navigate difficult decisions arising from the explosion of data.

Consumers have previously been blasé about the amount of data they produce, because it has been impossible to read the lengthy legal disclaimers they encounter on privacy and data – estimates of the time it would take to read terms and conditions on all the products you encounter can reach as high as 50 years.[2] This will change under GDPR. Awareness is rising. Some consumers will factor perceived data trustworthiness consciously into a purchase decision; more will factor it unconsciously into their view of a brand.

Compliance on its own will be the new normal. A “just compliant” could be perceived as a “couldn’t care less” approach; at a time when data breaches occur extremely frequently and are mostly due to sloppiness. Adhering to an ethical data framework can show that you are better and more competent than the companies which fall victim to preventable data breaches. For services where users share sensitive information, such as conversation or financial details, ‘end-to-end encryption’ is a helpful signal to customers.

There is also growing litigiousness around data as individuals better understand their data rights. Morrisons is facing lawsuits from over 5,000 employees after a member of staff stole some data. [3] Even if your data practises turn out to have been legal, the hoopla of a court case could be extremely expensive. It is worthwhile to proactively show that you take data ethics extremely seriously, and to have a gold standard data framework.



There are a number of options. The first is to understand what data means to your business now and in the longer term. A strategic approach to drawing up an ethical data policy involves identifying several ‘red lines’ which can be easily communicated to data subjects. It is also possible follow an ethical data framework set out by a trusted major brand. For example, the UK government’s ethical framework for the civil service. [4] The focus is on data collection being modest and clear in its intent. 

However, big data practise is a relatively new phenomenon, and ethical standards will continue to be teased out through debate. What is clear, is that the data boom is challenging organisations of all shapes and sizes - and not just because GDPR is rapidly approaching. Data is an ever-expanding asset requiring a robust framework that goes beyond forthcoming legislation, enabling companies to deal with a world in where AI is increasingly prevalent, and the algorithm is increasingly powerful.

So how are companies dealing with these strategic challenges? Our brand new survey seeks to understand the impact of data and ethics. For a free report on these issues, please complete the survey. For less than 10 minutes of your time, you’ll be able to assess how you compare with other industries who are preparing for GDPR and beyond.




[1]  Gartner. ‘Gartner Says, By 2018, Half of Business Ethics Violations Will Occur Through Improper Use of Big Data Analytics’ October 2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 10/10/2017]

[2] Morley, K., ‘It’s official: you don’t have to read the Ts & Cs’ Telegraph. October 2015. [Online] Available: [Accessed:10/10/2017]

[3] BBC. ‘Supermarket Morrissons sued by staff over a data leak.’ [Online]. Available: [Accessed 10/10/2017]

[4] Hancock, M., MP. ‘Data Science Ethical Framework.’ [Online.] Available: [Accessed 10/10/2017]


Topics: Thought Leadership

Written by Adam Stead

As Research & Content Producer, Adam finds and publishes up-to-date expertise regarding how disruptive technology will drive change business and life.

Leave a Comment