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WFA launches world’s first guide on data ethics for brands

Updated: Jun 25


Research shows that 74% of CMOs think data ethics will be more important to their role in the next five years. Responding to that the World Federation of Advertisers has launched the world’s first guide for brands on data ethics in advertising, designed to provide clear actions and practical guidance to some of the world’s biggest companies.

Data Ethics – The Rise of Morality in Technology sets out what marketers need to consider to ensure their organisation always uses data ethically and the actions they can take to promote the issue across their companies.

The goal of this guide is to encourage companies to go beyond simply following the rules on data privacy by getting them to see the vital importance of addressing the gap between what they can do and what they should do.

An essential element of using data in an ethical way is the cultural transformation required not just to push it up the corporate ladder but also to ensure that colleagues think carefully about where data comes from, whether it’s truly representative and if there any issues raised via the use of that data. Just 48% of respondents to the WFA’s survey said their company had a data ethics policy right now.

Data Ethics – The Rise of Morality in Technology is based on a year’s work by the WFA’s Data Ethics Board, chaired by Unilever’s General Counsel – Global Marketing and Media, Jamie Barnard. The board, whose members include senior experts from 19 of the world’s biggest companies, has looked in detail at the issues raised by data and technology and the impact that taking an ethical approach to data can have on companies and people, both internally and outside the organisation.

The guide outlines four key principles that should underpin a data ethics approach – respect, fairness, accountability and transparency:

  • Respect: all data usage should respect the people behind the data and companies need to strive to understand the interests of all parties and use consumer data to improve people’s lives.

  • Fairness: data usage should aim to be inclusive, acknowledge diversity and eliminate bias rather than dividing groups. Brands need to examine their data sets, mindsets and governance approach to ensure they are inclusive in the way they use data.

  • Accountability: Consumers expect companies to have open and transparent data practices backed up by robust global and local governance. The same standards should also be applied across partners, suppliers, publishers and platforms.

  • Transparency: Although the online advertising ecosystem is complex, brands should apply transparency principles and work towards more open and honest data practices, particularly as AI and machine-learning approaches start to automate decisions.

These four principles will form the basis for future work by the Data Ethics Board, as the WFA works to assist senior marketers in navigating this critical emerging issue.

Read Data Ethics – The Rise of Morality in Technology below

WFA Data Ethics_Rise of Morality in Tech
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