Start the Journey Towards Data Stewardship

Leaders Must Adopt Data Stewardship

Data brings both promise and peril.

Leaders face a dilemma between data as a critical component of their competitive strategy and the risk from regulators and distrustful customers inherent in data collection and use.

Capturing data, leveraging its value and retaining that data as an asset is the lifeblood of corporate strategies across boardrooms. But years of accruing data at all costs, negligence around protecting it and failure to be transparent have left consumers jaded and regulators reactive. These are significant risks. The imperative to change becomes more acute with the latest breakthroughs in data-fueled Artificial Intelligence.

In the past, businesses put questions of privacy and data ethics aside. Leaders failed to risk-adjust and chased data collection as part of growth at all costs. Repeated scandals resulted in a lack of consumer trust, an increased regulatory burden, and an erosion of brand value.

Today, change is accelerating. The next logical step from Big Data is the new technological leaps emerging in AI. Those advances will create immense value for consumers, but we must learn from the past and preserve safety and privacy. The same questions of ethical data use temper the benefits of tools like OpenAI’s GPT-3.

There’s a new risk now, where the entrenched mindset of consumers and regulators (however justified) hampers the next wave of innovation. The hazard is a society less well-off as a result. Businesses must lead the change.

It is not just a social responsibility for business but a competitive necessity in risky markets to be careful stewards of data. Accordingly, firms must enact ethical data principles: a social contract of privacy, ownership, transparency, objectivity, and accountability surrounding data’s lifecycle from its collection, to useful application, to retention.

Join us on the journey to build a more responsible future where companies should and can be trusted stewards of people’s data and where innovation is once again synonymous with good.

This document outlines:

  1. Our Vision of an Ethical Data Ecosystem: from individual data dignity, to data stewardship at the firm level, to the ecosystem at large
  2. Ethical Data Principles: five principles, when lived up to, to achieve Data Stewardship
  3. The Journey to Data Stewardship: organizational change is a process, and Data Stewardship won't be achieved overnight - start today by signing and committing

Our Vision of an Ethical Data Ecosystem

The last 30 years of data management innovation have focused on crunching more data efficiently. The next 30 years must focus equally on extracting value more responsibly.

We hold three fundamental beliefs about data to truly achieve an ethical internet:

  1. Data Dignity: When companies use people's data, they are obligated to use it responsibly. Responsible use means people can exercise negotiating power over the use of their data and the value exchanged for it: when it’s used, how it’s used, and where it’s used. This is “data dignity.”
  1. Data Stewardship: Companies must be responsible stewards of people’s data. Data Stewardship is the implementation of ethical data principles (defined below) at the firm level. That implementation necessitates an organizational and technological shift to deploy ethical data principles at scale across an organization.
  1. An Ethical Data Ecosystem: Where collectively, companies do right by people and people do right by companies. With the preconditions of data dignity and data stewardship, the necessary trust for a market emerges - and the flywheel of innovation benefits individuals, businesses, and society at large.

To start the journey towards an Ethical Data Ecosystem and realize the full value of coming technical change, we must, as leaders, demand our organizations adopt a posture of data stewardship and implement ethical data principles in everyday business practices.

Ethical Data Principles

Across the data lifecycle - from data collection to retention – five core ethical data principles will enable trust without stifling innovation:

  • Privacy: First and foremost, sensitive and personal data must be collected conscientiously – and used and protected with care. If personal data is no longer relevant to the purpose for which it was collected, it should be erased.
  • Agency: To preserve data dignity, people should be given choice and control over how their data is used, and have the power to change their decision at any time – and those choices should been forced across all the data systems that process that data.
  • Transparency: Businesses must communicate, in simple language, how they will use data they collect, who it will share that data with, and how long they plan on storing the data.
  • Fairness: Businesses must measure and mitigate over the impact of data systems and the outputs in machine learning, intelligent systems, and artificial intelligence that may have disparate impact or bias in application.
  • Accountability: A business’s technology and its employees must do what it says it will do system and organization-wide. We envision a world where if entities don’t do right by people, businesses are held accountable.

The Journey to Data Stewardship

Step 1: Organizational Commitment and Vision Match
‍If you understand and agree with theseprinciples, the first step is to personally join us in committing to pushethical data use forward as a critical consideration in your organization. Youcan do this by introducing the concept of data stewardship to keydecision-makers to drive awareness and buy-in at the strategic level.

Step 2: Communicate the Principles and Empower Others
Move from the strategic vision match of data stewardship to the specifics of ethical data principles applied in practice. Get other leaders on board and bought-in. Communicate to the practitioner level: how are they considering ethical data use? What do they need in resources to be empowered to meet each principle?

Step 3: Develop the Data Stewardship Muscle
Start with small wins. Plan for visible system improvements, create those improvements, and recognize the teams and employees involved. Then, tie the ethical data principles back to clear business outcomes, like consumer trust and customer retention.

Ready to enact change? Access our Partner Directory or sign-up at the link below for our Ethical Data Use Toolbox

Learn How to Implement Ethical Tech: get The toolbox for ethical data use

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