Digital Gaggle October 2022
“Hey team, let’s talk about data ethics in our digital marketing . . . “ - When was the last time you heard that in your business?
As an Agency leader, I found Rowenna Fielding’s talk at Digital Gaggle - How not to be a git. Data Ethics in Digital Marketing - challenging. The thing is, it's hard to confront some of the realities of the digital marketing world. We are all nice people, trying to do great work for our clients, so being reminded of the unintended consequences of the digital world in which we operate is just plain uncomfortable.
However, the key message I took from her talk was that it's important to sit with that discomfort.
She had some amazing, thought-provoking and occasionally horrifying stories about the ways in which our data is being used. I have always been very cavalier about sharing my data, but Rowenna made me realise just how lucky I am to be part of a complacent majority.
I’ve always believed that data protection is important. We should be ‘protecting the rights, freedoms and interests of living people’ in connection with data. It's a no brainer, right?. When we train the Noisy Little Monkey team about GDPR, it's not in terms of it being boring, dull and pointless, just getting in the way of our creativity even though this is how it's often portrayed in the media. GDPR is a reaction to the way we as marketers have allowed data to be used. It is a necessary protection for those people who aren’t in the complacent majority. Actually, it's a necessary protection for me too, and just maybe I shouldn’t be so complacent?
I’m not going to summarise Rowenna’s talk because I want you to watch it. I loved these points which I hope will encourage you to invest 30 minutes of your day:
- Reasonable, appropriate and justified use of data is incredibly subjective
- Data gets confused with the truth, but they aren’t the same
- Datafication - or the representation of people in data - is dehumanising
- Just because it's not illegal, doesn’t mean the use of data is ethically right
- Google analytics is not anonymous, Google can see everything, it's just selective in what it sells
- We are only just seeing the unintended consequences of the huge amounts of data that is being collected by our phones, apps, web browsers and other tools.
The danger is that this starts to sound like conspiracy theories and therefore easy to dismiss. But that’s why we need to talk about it. Once in a while, sit with your team and consider the impact of what you do as it relates to data. Is there an ‘ick’ in there somewhere?
Policies and processes aren’t what’s needed here. How often do any of us get out our GDPR policy or read the data privacy statements on websites before clicking to ‘Agree to all’? No, the key is to make time and space for grown up conversations about data ethics, so that those dry policy documents are transformed into an ethical stance that guides principles and practice in your business.
So, I challenge you to watch Rowenna’s talk then go and have that conversation in your team. Be more than nice people trying to do the right thing, be better humans.