When It Comes to Data Collection, Transparency and Ethical Standards Are Not a Matter of Choice

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Online data collection is an
incredibly powerful tool. It enables you to gather real-time market
intelligence effectively. By nature, online data is sourced from a wide variety
of websites. Therefore, it’s essential that the companies collecting and
leveraging the data have a strong ethical standard for how that data is
collected. For websites that collect data from customers, it’s equally
important that those customers are made aware of what data has been collected by
websites.

Many customers and individuals are already inherently skeptical about their data being collected and tracked — anyone who’s been followed across the internet by ads for a pair of shoes they only looked at once can attest to this. In fact, according to Salesforce, almost half of all customers say they’re unaware of how their data and assets are being used. And according to a PWC report, 36 percent of consumers are less comfortable sharing their data with companies.

This lack of transparency between customers and businesses has unfortunately given public online data collection a misunderstood reputation, which has translated into a lack of consumer trust. But that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, there’s an industry-wide movement towards ethical data collection. It is being led by organizations like the World Ethical Data Forum (WEDF) and not only looks into the complex data collection questions but also addresses them.

There has also been greater attention from regulators and governments on the online data collection space recently — including Washington and New York — further highlighting the need for industry-wide commitment to more stringent ethical standards. These laws are common-sense measures to protect consumers, and companies with inherently ethical practices should already be compliant in most cases.   

A Commitment to Ethical Online Data Collection

We recently celebrated World Data Privacy Day, which was the perfect reminder of the importance of transparency and ethical standards when it comes to online data collection. One facet of this standard is the essential need for businesses to give customers the option to opt-in to having their data collected — and for these customers to be informed about what exactly opting in means. They should also be able to opt-out just as easily and quickly. This level of transparency promotes trust, which in turn spurs more customers to opt-in, fueling businesses with more data — a game-changer when it comes to gaining a competitive advantage.  

It doesn’t stop with businesses collecting customer data. The
companies that provide online data collection technology, which can collect
publicly available data from around the web, must also commit to complete transparency.
This is so their own customers will know that the data they’re using is
reliable and sourced ethically, meaning it hasn’t caused damage to the online
sphere by overloading it or by using unethical methods. It also means it has
been collected from trustworthy open websites using an ethical data collection
network. Regulators have already started shifting their attention to behind the
scenes of the data collection process. This means all businesses must now pay
attention to prevent future challenges.

The Standards to Look for

For businesses that want to utilize online data that was
sourced from beyond their customer base, using an automated data collection
provider will be needed. It’s not always easy to spot the good guys from the
bad, and this also pertains to selecting an online data collection provider. Below
are key values and standards to look for when selecting a service:

  • Consent: Full, clearly stated detailed consent
    for customer opt-in must always be required.
  • The Stringency of Compliance Measures: Online
    data should serve the goal of promoting web-transparency and providing
    businesses equal access to the web. The provider should promote such business
    cases and be open about their compliance and ethics guidelines. This should
    serve as an integral part of their value proposition to their customers,
    clearly stating cases that have been allowed or refused in the past. 
  • Continuous Monitoring:The data
    collector should be able to articulate how they actively monitor any users that
    are attempting illegitimate actions, such as fake engagement on social media
    channels and more.
  • Compliance to All Major Regulations: GRPR
    and CCPA compliance is an absolute must, and the company should be able to
    prove that they are adherent to these laws as well as future emerging laws.

Ultimately, public online data collection is a tool that
most businesses rely on since it’s the largest source of information that keeps
being fed in real-time. Online data provides businesses with insights that help
them offer better products and customer service or experience. Online data also
helps businesses anticipate consumer demand and fuel inventiveness. With well-defined
ethical standards promoted across the entire organization, including
transparency in all actions and comprehensive customer-centered compliance
measures, online data collection can continue to serve as businesses’ and
consumers’ best ally for a thriving, openly competitive, and creative market.

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