How to set higher ethical standards in data protection

Nina Müller

This episode explores how data protection evolved and how businesses can explore it as an advantage


Rich Carvell is a consultant with more than 25 years experience in data-driven marketing, analytics and e-commerce environments, working across many sectors. He worked as a marketer at the beginning of his career in the late 90s and has gained lots of experience in leading digital transformation processes in data warehousing and e-commerce. Rich worked for the Office Depot group in various exec roles including Viking UK and OD Europe. Currently, he is helping clients develop and implement an e-commerce strategy.

The concern for data protection is nothing new, and there has been a data act in the UK since the 1980s that set clear guidelines for data minimization, purpose, security and the duration of storage. 

It has evolved since then and especially when the internet became accessible to a broader audience became an issue in the online world. In May 2018, the GDPR was finally introduced, adding “more teeth for it to be a much stronger framework”, Rich explains. 

Furthermore, a new aspect became relevant besides that for data subjects: There is a clear business interest in terms of commercial benefits and being good with data overall.

But how does it work, how can we make more with data beyond the mandatory legal compliance?

Rich stresses the importance of keeping up the conversation in a public sphere, getting many different stakeholders involved and having a solid ethics foundation. 

An ethical foundation as a precursor for the legal framework, a set of principles to guide advancements and ensure everybody is acting fairly and proportionately.

In a business context, with changing expectations from customers, we’re starting to see ethics implemented in a b2c context in sourcing, processes, employment and environmental issues. But also more and more frequently in b2b relationships higher ethical standards are adopted, for example in selecting ethical tech solutions or advertisements, and use this as a clear differentiation from competitors. 

Exploiting Ethics?

Inevitably, there will be some companies that exploit ethical standards in a cynical way to maximise their profit, but those “ethics washing” practices can easily be detected from those who have a genuine interest in setting new standards beneficial for everyone. 

In conclusion, a higher level of protection and a taking on more responsibility and transparency about how data is processed is where we should be striving as a society and as businesses, and the link to the advantages that it has is a C-level concern and conversation that is more and more happening.

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